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.
We are taught to turn the other cheek. But just how many times do we have to do it? How many slaps in the face before we stand up and say ENOUGH! We tire of being blamed for EVERYTHING! We tire of the names, the ridicule, the constant demonetization. You don't treat muslims this way? No sir, no more, I shall NOT turn the other cheek again.
First of all, Ed, the word is "demonization." "Demonetization" is a word dealing with currency or money. This is not trivial nit-picking: ignorant people frequently lash out in hate rather than undertake the hard work of becoming educated. Secondly, Ed, if society blames a lot of ills on us Christians, it's only because we have this ongoing habit of showing up EVERYWHERE and there's ALWAYS a couple of us who feel they have the right to write/say word that are bigoted and/or hateful. Well, i have news for you, Ed: we don't have that right. You need to spend a few weeks (maybe years?) in humble silence.
So,, what you're saying is that you are purposefully and willfully failing God's test.
7? 70 times 7? The second you stop turning the other cheek is the moment that it becomes about you and your rights.
Stand strong, and you will find that most people will break their own hands long before you cheek is bruised.
Be kind to your enemies and make them paraoid and guilty (heaping them up with "hot coals to the crotch").
If you reach a breaking point, ask, is it because I cannot take any more and this is about you, or ask if it was simply that you were not in the right place to begin with (many people find that they had slid with culture far from where they should have stood long before).
I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.
You have lost your way as a Christian if you refuse to turn the other cheek.
Why don't you keep your religion where it belongs in your own home, not mine. Keep it behind the 4 walls of your church on Sunday, not in my government ever day of the week. Don't ask to have tax free status then claim that government is interfering in your "religious freedom". Don't waste money building palaces instead of feeding the homeless. Don't scream about stopping abortion when you refuse to help prevent pregnancy.
In other words, keep to yourselfs instead of waving it in everyone's face. Quit trying to force your religious values on the world. If you want to live a certain way in your life that is fine. However when you use your religion to determine how others live, that is when you get punched in the mouth and you should.
" How many slaps in the face before we stand up and say ENOUGH!"
In my experience, looking sideways at guys like you from across the street is enough for you to scream "ENOUGH!" Get help for that persecution complex.
7X70. Jesus doesn't keep track when you sin against Him. Neither shall you keep track of others.
Ah yes. Christians and their persecution complex. The population is 75% christian, our government is saturated with them, you can't get elected anywhere without claiming you're a jeebus freak, our presidents have the balls to justify their actions to the nation by saying god told them to...............................and somehow you manage to feel persecuted.
So we're told that we will know they are Christians by their love. I'm sorry, but evidence from the Crusades to the Vatican's attempts to cover up pediphilia on the part of priests to Westboro Baptist Church has suggested that the only people Christians really love are people who accept their message and agree with them.
I was raised in different dominations of Christianity and the overwhelming message that I remember was how we, as young christians, were not of 'this world' and that as Christians we would always be at odds with it. It is teaching that I have seen flesh out ever since Bill Clinton's move to allow gays in the military. The fact is that Christianity, at it's heart, is not tollarent of anything other than Christianity....And if it's going to stay relevant, that is really going to have to change.
Nobody is really a "Christian." It would require that you both believe in a god AND love your fellow man, two things which are incompatible.
Fatally not true Hugh, I love God and you! My prayers are with you!
In addition to being nice, I would like to also ask for honesty, specifically when discussing matters of science.
You mean nonexistent global warming and faith-destroying Darwinism? Heck no, honesty is fatal on those two theological points.
Pray without ceasing
Prayer changes things.
Not an abusive post, per se, but definitely the words of a meddler. You can't learn any lesson from someone you disagree with, can you?
Did you not read the article? Bad Christian, BAD!
A Rob: His post isn't abusive, but his user name is.
Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.
An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.
The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!
Calling everyone a bigot proves the author's point pretty neatly. Thanks.
??LOL = troll = ignore
The fool has said in its heart there is no God.
What lesson would you learn from a fool?
Hey Heysus I mean Jeezus,
On Good Friday in the morning I was praying to Jesus in hopes of celebrating his sacrifice to be able to help somebody in need that day. One hour later a women knocked at my door with a flat tire. She said she prayed she would just make it to my house for help. I fixed her flat and we both hugged praised God and she went on her way. Prayer is real! God bless you!
The moral of the story is : Believing in a God does not make you a moral person. You would think that this blatant fact would make people question their beliefs in the first place and come to the conclusion that God is not the source of objective morality, or that an objective morality actually exists. If people would spend more time meditating with logical contemplation about reality, then I think we would have a lot less cruelty and rudeness in the world.
Trajik, I don't disagree that merely believing in God makes one a moral person. But I don't think anyone claims that. You have rejected objective morality as not existing. I do disagree with that. There may be some argument around the edges, but I'd say it is objectively moral to: refrain from intentionally harming or killing others; from stealing from others; from lying. It is objectively moral to come to the aid of others in need, when possible. I think there is near unanimous agreement on these elements of morality. One need not believe in God to adopt these moral principles. Most Christians also adopt these moral principles, although for them it is not "objective morality" that guides them, it is their faith and the teachings of their religion.
NClaw441, If not killing is objectively moral, why then do we condone killing in the case of defense of self, family or property? Why then is killing condoned in war? Why then is killing condoned when the state sanctions it?
And lying....is it immoral to tell a lie that saves lives? Is it immoral to tell a small white lie that allows someone their dignity or helps them feel better about themselves?
Morality is relative and dependent upon the culture in which you live.
Isn't that what all the major religions teach these days, HATE? Just look at the world. There is nothing else that kills and maims as many people or causes more suffering than religion.
Floyd– People of faith are flawed human beings just like everyone else. I disagree that most religions embrace hate, or teach it. What we see reported in the media are extremes. That is what makes news. The rank and file, the great majority are people that we work with every day, and I don't see hate dominating those I come into contact with daily. That doesn't mean that everyone agrees with each other, especially on matters of faith. And yes, some pretty ugly stuff happened hundreds of years ago, in a less enlightened time. Even the Islamic faith properly practiced does not, in my view, teach hate as so many claim.
NClaw: You don't see religion as divisive?
We are to love the sinner but hate the sin. The Bible also states to get angry but sin not. Christians are not told to "agree" or "accept" sin. Yet, when you speak the truth that people do not want to hear, you are a hater. Sorry but it is a Christians obligation to speak the truth as the Bible states, like it or not.
Yes,there is something other than religion. Tribalism. Don't confuse the two.
The Big Lie as practiced by contemporary Christians – "love the sinner, hate the sin", a concept they stole from Gandhi and have corrupted ever since.
People say this often as if saying that religion kills more people enough times will somehow make it true. 2.5 million people die every year just in alcohol related deaths according to the World HealthOrganization.. Murders occur every day. People starve because of western greed and love of money. Sure some people die for specifically religious hate. But it's only a small fraction of the amount of world death... greed, drugs, ethnic violence, murder – these far out number religious hate crimes. They are just so common place no one reports them - or for that matter is ever moved by them,
Sam, religion may be divisive, in that it separates out those who believe as adherents of a particular religion do from those who don't believe. That, however, is a long way from hate. Disagreeing without someone is not hate.
Oh yes, the pope who stated, with regard to Africa, "AIDS is bad, but the use if condoms is a sin" – when is our species going to grow up?
The pope just resigned. the carbon is depleting.
Oops pope resigning the 28th of Feb 2013
As Christopher Hitchens so aptly put forth, and I paraphrase, "good people do good things, bad people do bad things, but if you want to see otherwise good people do bad things, it takes religion -
Actually, it was, it takes religion to make otherwise good people do bad things
Good point Jim. Because Jesus was horrible in healing the sick and lame, and eating with the disenfranchised to help them have better lives as opposed to your God Hitchens. Comparing the two I will follow Jesus and continue to feed the poor. Maybe you should look into Peter Hitchens. I will pray for you Jim.
"your God Hitchens"
Epic fail at being nice. You are so insecure that you imagine people WORSHIP Hitchens and Dawkins? That's incredibly childish, especially since you likely don't believe it and are saying it when you know it's a lie. Where exactly does the Bible urge you to honor Jesus with a big whackin' lie?
Wait a minute Hugh are you judging me? How supposedly Christian of you. I will pray for you as I did earlier. Be careful, you will meet your maker, it is said the response from Him could be depart from me, for I never knew you. I hope and prayed that wouldn't happen to you.
By the way Hugh I was much more insecure as an atheist when I was persecuting Christians for their belief, now that I have seen the light my security is in Jesus and it is unfailing because I know he loves me and I love him. Consequently one of my heroes is Paul, you might consider reading about him. God love you Hugh!
How would you classify your former self as an atheist? Did you believe there were no gods? Did you not believe there are any gods? Were you disenfranchised from the religion you grew up with, or angry at the christian god? Was it something else? If so, what? What was the trigger that started (or restarted) your change from atheism to a belief in the christian god?
I ask because I have a hard time believing that I could ever go back to believing there are gods. I'd need some very convincing evidence before I could consider the existence of gods as even remotely possible. I don't dismiss the remote possibility there are any, but I consider the odds of there being any gods about on par with the odds of there being an Easter Bunny. I don't see myself ever going back to believing it exists.
Linca than you for asking. I was not raised religious, I saw it as crutch for dumb people. Although the testimony is lengthy I will cut to the chase. While in college I saw actions of love in two individuals whom did things no others were willing to do around us. I asked them why and they said it was because of their relationship with Jesus. That got me curious, and the net result was a in depth look into the possibility of a real Jesus historical and otherwise. Finally at one point through physiological changes in my body I could not deny the overwhelming feeling of love infused in me which I had never felt on any level before. The rest has been a walk with Him with numerous examples of actions of love I may have not taken before I was a follower. I have left most of my self gratification behind and 30 years later believe stronger than ever. The question you are asking in my opinion is the holy spirit knocking at your door. I will pray for you, as I know He knows who are. Our walk is a personal one and we all fall short of His glory. It is about the journey and walking the narrow path instead of the wide one which is generally one of selfish ambition. God Bless you!
As if there is real a God to begin with....
Onefai– I do believe there is a God, but neither my adopting that faith or you denying it will make it either true or not. What proof would you demand that God exists? Do you love anyone or any thing? Most people do. How would you prove that love exists? If you cannot, do you then deny that love exists?
Biologically, it is a survial tool .
You have asked that love question and had it answered countless times. Love can be measured usiing various techniques. It is a biological reaction.
God can't be measured because it doesn't exist.
Stop saying the same thing over and over. Use a different anaolgy. Like how do you know the great pumpkin exists or the tooth fairy...then you would be comparing apples to apples.
I am truly uncomfortable with Chistian who give christian a bad name. I try my best to love everyone as Christ has even the ones who plot against you. I know that many people place the lable christian on themselves because of the type of religion they grew up in. Many people also say they love christ with their lips but their actions and hearts are truly speaking a different language. We cannot change those but must allow God to have his way and speak to them individually and show them where they are wrong and how to change. Thank you for sharing your experience and heart. May God's amazing love and spirit be with you.
This is a great message that sadly, only those who already get the point will appreciate it. The ones who need to hear it will, for the most part, ignore it. It's a dangerous thing for a religion to enjoy cultural favor and superiority above all others, as that creates the mess we see today in the world, with entire countries being run by religious figures, and some people in this country not so secretly wishing for a Christian Theocracy here. I pray that never happens. That being said, it is a tone that all Chriistians need to take to heart and change they way we go about our daily lives. We're all people on this big blur marble together, let's try to make it as good as we can!
If they don't listen to god when it tells them to be nice, why would they listen to some schmuck blogging on CNN?
i say the guy makes sense. nothing much else to say, not a follower of religious belief; however he makes a good point.
Cool. Somebody who can read the article objectively. That's rarely found in these discussions.
You guys whatever. Go on and try to make someone else feel miserable because it don't work on me. I feel sorry for you. Oh well...
I feel sorry that it don't work on you.
Shane, You don't make sense what so ever. I really don't know what your problem is, because you keep trying to put me down, and it is killing you that you can't. As far as me needing any help who is to say, it is certainly not you though. Look, I think you are really in for a big surprise one day, and now that I have confessed Jesus to you and all that I have said in this forum, your blood will not be on my hands and I wipe my hands clean of you and this conversation. God bless you and your family and God help you.
You seem to have problems making sense of what anyone tells you. Your problem is in the mirror.
Since there is no God, that little tirade of yours is truly irrelevant.
" your blood will not be on my hands and I wipe my hands clean of you" Yes, we get it, you hates us forever and you hope God burns us all up in His fire down there below where He lives. We can all feel the love of God emanating from you. Sicko.
This message is specifically for Christians from a Christian. Why do non-christians feel the need to comment, especially negatively, when the author is just attempting to police his own?
As a Christian, I accept this message as truth, and try to live up to it. However, as an imperfect, sinful human, I too occasionally slip up. That's why someone like this author has to slap fellow Christian up side the head, to remind us how we should be acting.
Perhaps this message can be applied to any group that espouses love over hate. If you belong to any of these groups, take it to heart. Hate will not win anyone over to your cause, and if it does, they joined for the wrong reason.
From a non-Christian to a Christian I just don't like the way you are being treated with that picture above the article and the comments. The world has seen that type of anti-religious group scuz before (liike the nineteen thirties) and I'm not going to put up with silently. I'm in support of you, a fellow human who deserves to be acknowledged as such even if you have a politically incorrect viewpoint or two. That's why I comment.
"Why do non-christians feel the need to comment, especially negatively, when the author is just attempting to police his own?"
Why do you Christians feel the need to burn crosses on our lawns and have us fired from our jobs and wait for us in dark parking lots with claw hammers? Why do you kill us? Why do you picket our children's funerals with signs assuring us that God hates us? Why is a demented Christian posting the word 'bigot' after every post? In short, why can't you act like Christians instead of Attila and his Huns?
Hugh why lump all Christians together as cross burners? Atheist kill children, however not all children killers are atheist. Generalizations are the bane of true intelligent dialogue. You seem smarter than that. Still praying for you.
Jen, Thank you. I gladly accept your reasoning. Same beliefs or not, I'll take support from where ever it is sincerely offered.
lol??, What part of my post makes you believe that I am any better than you? Being a Christian doesn't make me better, it just means that I am forgiven of my sins. I still sin, as is human nature. I just try to avoid it.
Hugh, Most Christians do not do those things. However, while you are definately wrongly lumping all Christians together in your description, I know there are a few Christians who have committed these acts that you describe. This article is mostly written to those few who have committed such hateful acts, attempting to remind them that hateful behavior is not what Christ wants.
Mark, I appreciate the support.
Your Grifter God, Please make sense if you are going to join the adults that are talking. thank you.
If your reading comprehension skills are so abominably poor that you could not make sense of plain English, then the problem is you.
Shane, You really should take your act on the road. I sure did hit a nerve with you. Are you in like first grade? Go ahead and mock me. Jesus told me in his word that I would be mocked and scoffed at for believing in him especially because he was mocked and spit on and beat, so naturally because I do believe and follow Jesus, I can count on persecution which I count it for the glory of God for me to suffer mocking for Jesus sake. So you see, even GOD used you to fulfill his prophecy. Amen Glory to the Lamb of God.
That's an old con game trick: tell the marks that they will be told it is a con, but that is actually a sign that it is true.
Old, old trick, makes perfect circular logic, hooks the marks. A real god would not resort to such manipulative trickery.
It looks more like I got YOUR panties in a knot, Philip. The more you spew your nonsensical drivel, the more you prove my point. You need psychological help-–as does anyone who seriously believes in any of this crap.
@Phillip Well, I appreciate the fact that you said "The majority" and not all. I certainly have no ill will towards anyone. I just call it like I see it.
Obviously we have some disagreements, but that's no reason to be uncivil. The Christian religion does not frighten me. This is not a tough religion folks. Believe, repent, change, be saved. It's pretty straightforward. You have to believe though, and I don't.The idea that non believers somehow choose to not believe because they do not want to take responsibility for their lives is a bit of a cop out on your side of things. Do you really think I would pretend not to believe, just so I could spend a few years sinning, only to spend eternity in hell? that makes no sense. It's also something I can say with surity is absolutely incorrect. At least in my case. I can't speak for anyone else.
There goes that muffled sound again.
Hey, Philip, why don't you go make some toast . . . maybe Jesus will appear on the bread and tell you what your next mission should be.
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.