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.
@Science of course the people who wrote the bible didn't have the science we have today, but just because *that aspect* of its message is out of date, but there is a lot more to the bible than "the earth is 6000 years old".
In fact, it never even says that in the bible in the first place.
Young earth creation look it up please it does not work.
Young Earth creationism (YEC) is the religious belief that the Universe, Earth, and all life on Earth were created by direct acts of the Abrahamic God during a relatively short period, sometime between 5,700 and 10,000 years ago. Its primary adherents are those Christians and Jews who believe that God created the Earth in six 24-hour days, using a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation narrative as a basis.[
It does not work that way.
god-haters have a fetish for lying.
if i wanted to reject god and christianity, i'd search for some solid reasons. since there aren't any, if i was a heathen, i would do what our dear god-haters do.
There is mo Jesus, there is only Zuul!
Ya got me! I too am a rabid Ghostbusters fan...even now, after all these years. Zuul wasn't a very nice god. But, like someone we all know about but hesitate to say it out loud, her goal is power and destruction, not growth or happiness for anyone. Mr. S, as I call him, loves nothing better than to get mean people to say mean things under the banner of religion–Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, anything he can get his hands on. Hey, every corporation needs great PR; why wouldn't Mr. S?
"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?"
Social media you say? The world would be better off if that's where the vitriol and stupid spewed by MANY "Christians" would stay. That way, no one's 1st Amendment rights would be offended nor the rest of us be offended by the idiocy. But nooooo. They then want to insert their "meddling" into "state" matters and say that's what God wants. They love saying what God wants, ya know. I thought God wants us to pray and do good works. A lot of what we see is more like "skunk works". Robertson, Huckabee, Santorum, Franklin Graham and others (pillars of Christianity), no, they "meddle" incessantly... and are paid to do so. Good Christian values, cha ching!! Don't wonder what happened to religion. I just told you.
Right on. I am a secular Humanist, and a senior citizen. In my long life – not in the media – I have been attacked by these "Christians" time and again for my difference in belief. Now they want to take over the government? I will fight that to my dying day.
I never understood why evangelical Christians insist on having religion in schools. Many lawsuits are filed to add prayer in school. This baffles me. Why must people of faith insist on this? Do you really really really think that students pray during a moment of silence in school? I teach and I will tell you that they don't. It is the adults who see the public schools as the perfect vehicle to push their agenda because it is the public school. We don't see people crowing for prayer in the local "Boys and Girls Club". Why do they demand this in the public schools?
Religion loves a captive audience.
Oh, sweet, CNN's war on white, male Christians continues.
Congratulations on not paying attention and warping the argument at hand into a straw man.
Oh, old pnut's paying attention alright. He's just "rasslin' with the truth. You see, so often it often doesn't matter so much the context of the argument, the "liberal media" bias will always invoke right wing spin. Here's how it goes. "Stricter gun laws need to be implemented". (Which I agree with) The spin, "stop trying to take our guns away from us". See? They didn't holler so loud whenever Reagan raised taxes 11 times. It's selective.
Being an idiot has nothing to do with being a white, male, Christian. Stop screaming "Persecution!" and get out there and do something that helps the world to be a better place.
Right .. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ or of calling Him my Lord and Savior. As for the church, I am deeply ashamed of what it has become in some corners. But truth be told, many get it right, loving and serving the world as Jesus did. But that story goes untold because it doesn't stir up the tribes.
Political parties, advocacy groups, anything that turns a thinking individual into a mindless ideologue.
You can love and serve the world as best you can without a deity. Just be a decent person. Why does it have to be made into a huge issue?
Some of the people I respect most in this world identify as Christians. And some of the biggest tools I know identify as Christians. Do you want to know why they are different. My friend whom I respect attends church every Sunday and works in a ministry to do good works for the homeless. And she never talks about it!! My co-worker who is a giant tool will not stop talking about Jesus, asking me what church I attend, and trying to sneak God into his public school lessons. He is intolerant and hateful but his speech is peppered with Christian catchphrases (you know them if you live in the Bible belt.) So that is where I am torn on Christianity. I love Christ; it's his followers that can so often confuse and annoy.
Margaret – I think you wrap it up nicely. Wish I could articulate my thoughts the way you do.
I was always so kind and charitable that it shocked people to find out that I don't attend church and haven't for many years. I recently blew the mind of someone who wanted me to "meet Jesus" by pointing out that this atheist is a former minister's wife. I don't need the introduction. Because of the hurtful and hateful behavior of those who call themselves "Christians" - not just church members but also church heirarchy - I walked away from organized religion over 20 years ago. Many years of fervent prayers being answered only in the worst possible way (ways that cannot by any stretch of the imagination be "God has something better in mind") I began to question whether there actually is a God. You have to REALLY abuse a minister's wife to get her to that point.
Thank you Margaret. One of the most coherent things said here. Basically, actions speak louder than words. Role modeling the behavior that Christianity teaches is the most powerful way to get the message across. Have a great day!
I believe in Jesus, but I stopped taking my kids to church because of all the hate. I tried to enroll my son into a youth group, but he wasn't interested because the kids in the group were the same kids that were calling him a "gay-wad" a year earlier. He was only in 5th grade and didn't even know what gay meant. Is this the way you parents talk to your children at home when you are not in church. You are the most hate-filled members of the community. Do you know how many 5th graders have committed suicide for the exact same thing. This is not the way Jesus would have wanted to be represented to our children. Shame on you.
As a Christian who strives to live as Christ and leave behind the religious nonsense and rude behavior, I enjoyed the article. The Body of Christ is well-known (most known?) for being egotistical jerks who would rather promote their own well-being above all others. This has GOT to change. The road is narrow, few find it. It is NOT majority Christianity.
You got groups like westboro baptist church picketing funerals like they are, leaders of groups like the 700 club calling for assassinations and calling natural disasters in places like Haiti a blessing, and the Catholic Church shuffling the deck of priests when alter boys get abused. I think asking them to be nicer is like trying to move a mountain without asking God for some help.
Well said and those examples you gave show what religion is all about.
Excellent article. While we disagree fundamentally on theology and spirituality, your message is spot on and would do the world a load of good if more people thought that way.
Are you saying to those who know your kind for what you are to bend over?
It is pretty clear what I said. Do you need me to use smaller words? Now run along and argue with a post you understand before you make yourself look even more foolish.
Atheists can be great people – I know some!
"Common sense" does go a long way –
But what's often overlooked is that religion provides us with a shared language for aspects of our lives that are absolutely inaccessible from an empirical/scientific perspective.
No they can't. All so called atheists are liars and given the opportunity mass murderers.
Which is exactly what one would expect if it were totally made up. Why is it that there is not one thing about Christianity that is inconsistent with it being totally man made?
No, spirituality does that. Religion teaches sets of fairy tales to reinforce tribal, us vs. them divisions and empower the High Priests who supposedly commune with God on our behalf. It's a scam.
Is it possible that this lol...whatever is really not a believer but rather worldly and accommodating to the current sins? There will be those at judgment that will be cast out with the admonition "begone I never knew you" ...very worldly accommodating types.
I am scared about the lack of moral orientation as well when religion goes away.
I think there is a lot more to religion than whether the creation story literally happened that way or not (it is actually a lot more accurate than some give it credit for, given its age!)
Dawkins is calling other people "idiots" and "morons" all the time, and there were Atheist political systems (e.g. socialist East Germany) that were-to say the least-no better in any way than their religion-tolerant counterparts.
But religious insti-tutions currently repell people on a large scale.
It's a problem... the churches are weak, atheist retorics uses strong language – it's a crisis to say the least.
Look around you ... everything is a human invention if you think about it.
The universe itself knows no "enti-ties" or "objects" or "things" or whatever. (sorry, this might be overly philosophical, but there is an enormous gap between "common sense" and "evidence").
if you look at Atheist retorics (e.g. Dawkins) it is in fact full of "us" cs. "them" mentality. Atheism is absolutely no protection against tribal mechanisms.
In fact, religion is a strategy to overcome them.
Well, I am honestly looking I can say that much.
And I have friends who are Atheists.. I don't agree with them, I think they are missing something, but I understand where they are coming from.
I don't know what would happen to me in a "final judgement", all I can say is that I'm really trying to pay attention.
That's categorically incorrect. Neurotheology has already demonstrated that that "shared language" of religion is easily tappable from outside the community; in fact transcendental meditation, an allegedly non-religious activity, triggers the same brain activity, the same "unitary sensation" as religion.
It's a mechanism of the brain, to release positive chemicals that make us feel good when we're secure. Groups make us secure, ergo groups cause our brain to release chemicals that make us feel good.
None of that has anything to do, however, with objectivity and logic.
I'm not religious, but if I were a good, decent, non-right-wing Christian in today's America, I would be SO ashamed of the shrill "Christians" whose voices of hate dominate the debate on every issue from abortion to guns to the environment.
When is the Rapture scheduled for again? How wonderful it would be if the worst of them would just magically go away and free America to move forward.
As I understand, the Rapture will only remove those who are truly blessed, and leave behind the dregs. So ... be careful what you wish for ... we may all get it.
But the rapture signals the end of the world soon to come. Not long after it all men will be judged by God and life as we know it will be over.
I can't disagree with what the Pastor said directly. Indirectly, I would like to know what hate speech he is referencing and the picture framing the discussion is disturbing. Intentionally so I assume. Even so, there is alot of truth in the article in that we "Christians" need to be light and salt in a lost world. Sprinkle this with some love and discerment from the Holy Spirit and great thinks can be accomplished for the cause of Christ.
and Muslims? CNN and its cowardice! This is why I have to watch both CNN and Fox news. Fox is not scared of Islam.
To the contrary, Fox "News" is TERRIFIED of Islam. Their guests worry about the paranoid fantasy of Muslim Shariah Law being imposed in the US, even as they argue fiercely for "Christian Shariah Law" to be crammed down all of our throats.
The article is about christians.
Clean your own house before worrying about others'.
This is a post by a pastor to fellow Christians. If you look under recent posts there are two that are critical of various aspects of Islam (Iranian political Islam and commercialization of Mecca). There are about 70 Christians in the US for every Muslim and this is a US news station...who do you think most stories will be addressed to?
I really don’t care if you are naughty or nice ecause, you see, I don't exist. The concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the actions and thoughts of the 7 billion human beings on this planet is ludicrous to determine if each of them is a "good person" or not is totally absuurd.
Second, if I did exist, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible. Hell, I bet you cannot tell me one thing about any of its authors or how and why it was compiled with certain writings included and others excluded, nor how it has been edited over the centuries, yet you cite it for the most extraordinary of supernatural claims.
Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Indonesians and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Iron Age Middle East.
Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who elected to withhold all evidence of my existence in the first place.
Fifthly, in the same vein, I would not make about 5% of the human population gay, then punish them for being that way. In fact, I wouldn’t care about how humans have $ex at all, given that I created all of the millions of millions of species on the planet, all of whom are furiously reproducing all the time. Human $ex would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Has it ever occurred to you that your obsession with making rules around human $ex is an entirely human affair?
Sixth, I would have smitten all you Christian activists, and all evangelicals and fundamentalists long before this. You people drive me nuts. You are so small minded and speak with such false authority. Many of you still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. I would kill all of you for that alone and burn you for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric even for a sick, sadistic bast.ard like me to contemplate).
Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place.
Eighth, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as you euphemistically call it. There are 7 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 700,000,000 prayers. This works out at 8,000 prayers a second – every second of every day. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.
Finally, the only reason you even consider believing in me is because of where you were born. Had you been born in India, you would likely believe in the Hindu gods, if born in Tibet, you would be a Buddhist. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?
Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no god. Believing in me was fine when you cringed in fear during the Dark Ages and thought the World was young, flat and simple. Now we know how enormous, old and complex the Universe is.
Move on – get over me. I did.
This all seems so obvious to me. Yet religious fanatics simply CANNOT see the world as it is. They are interesting in a lab-study sense, but they represent a real danger to the stability of American society.
La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la -I can't hear you!
Thank you for taking the time to write us God, that clears up a lot. I'm looking forward to parts 11-20 already
Colin, please read Quran. It is an independently verifiable Word of God. As a matter of fact God in Quran has challenged mankind to either reproduce something similar or find any error or contradiction in it. Therefore, Quran in itself is a miracle. Go directly to the source . Please read the entire Quran because reading it in its entirety will get you answers to ALL the answers to the questions you raise in your comment. Please go to http://www.QURAN.com
Colin – God – err... Colin I LOVE YOU!
Of course, if there wasn't a biochemical addiction component to religion, this kind of logic would have won over years ago.
They can't even read something like this all the way through, Colin, without hating it, because that would cause cognitive dissonance - it would disrupt the flow of positive brain chemistry partly influenced by their belief system.
take the curse of the fig tree....
there are no gods, all religions are BS, get over it
I would like to take comfort in your observation, but too many people would lack even a basic ethical code if it weren't for religion.
Leif: that is apparently true for a lot of religious people, but luckily not for others.
So maybe religion is a good thing, otherwise all those believers would run amok "without moral guidance". Surely you can see how ridiculous your statement was?
Good article. Something simple some can't seem to understand...people corrupt Christianity, Christianity does not corrupt people. Anyone who has actually read the Testament of Christ (New Testament) should easily realize that.
I've read it back to front, cover to cover. I was a divinity student throughout my youth, as used to be quite common in England.
One of the things the Pew Research survey on faith clearly showed is that most atheists HAVE read it; that's why they're atheists, because they see the inherent contradictions in the Bible itself. If you can't, you're either skipping a lot of it or deluding yourself. I'm pretty sure when Jesus said "Servants, obey your masters" he was well aware that "servants" in his age were indentured slaves.
So Jesus supported slavery?!?
Well, yes. He does in the Bible. Why? Because it's a book written by men, and in his time, slavery was accepted and normal. So he didn't question it.
A surprising reaction from the allegedly omnipotent son of God.
We live in a very jaded, cynical, "what's in it for me" kind of society. Milton said best in Paradise Lost when he wrote;
“Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.”
― John Milton, Paradise Lost
No one reigns in hell.
I also like the following quote
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” by Gandhi
Would your quote be from the same Ghandi that used to drink his own urine?
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.