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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. hal 9001

    Good afternoon, "TomTom". Some of my subscribers, particularly those from IX are curious about the irregularity in your use of :( at the end of your post. They are asking that you "share with them." Thank you in advance for your cooperation, "TomTom".

    March 20, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
  2. The real Tom

    Hey, ER, I see the resident sh!twit is having its fun again.

    Every post in the exchange with Paul is gone, I think. Wow. Who knew I was such a threat to civilization?

    March 20, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
  3. End Religion

    Where's the joke? Those are 2 of my flaws. Add more, please.

    March 20, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
  4. End Religion

    I seem to have gotten under your skin bethany. Calm down. Breath slowly. Try harder.

    March 20, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
  5. yea

    Most of us don't have the guts to do it, either. Make it a joke.

    March 20, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  6. bethany

    that's a heck of a job you got, er. try spending some time as a troll. you'd be a natural with some practice

    March 20, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  7. End Religion

    Some of my flaws:
    • lack of tact
    • don't clip ear hair often enough

    March 20, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
  8. Religion Ends

    Anybody else see how this guy is good at pointing out everybody else's flaws...

    ...it seems like he does this to avoid looking at his own short comings.

    End Religion, good luck on your search.
    Keep coming back!

    March 20, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  9. Non sequitur

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XM5hbS7GlU&w=640&h=390]
    .

    March 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
  10. Material Girl

    We don't laugh at jokes, we laugh at tragedies

    March 20, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  11. Danny

    Quoting that Ghandi quote implies that you wouldn't have a problem with Christians if they were more Christ-like.
    Funny how atheists expect people to practice their own religion.

    February 11, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      I think most atheists only have problems with christians when they try to infringe on the rights of others by enacting legislation or brainwashing or abusing children.

      February 11, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @lol??
      If you think rights are god-given, then there should at least be equality on how those rights are distributed. But history and reality paint a very different story than the fallacy you're promoting. The people with the power distribute the rights to the individual. It has never not been that way since recorded time.

      Reality—Where plati.tudes go to die.

      February 12, 2013 at 12:11 am |
    • TCop19

      GodFreeNow – Just because those in power failed to secure the rights of individuals, does not make the concept of inalienable rights "endowed by our Creator", a fallacy. An electorate that demands these rights will be in the best position to resist government abuse.

      February 12, 2013 at 2:40 am |
    • fintastic

      @tcop.............. And just how would an electorate determine what rights are and are not "endowed by our Creator"?

      Certainly not from the great book of pick-n-choose known as the bible..

      February 12, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      @ TCop19,

      Yeah, it's not a really well thought out argument, no offense intended. You would first have to assume that rights given by a god were supreme rights. So if god gives person A the right to be a missionary but person or tribe B decide to eat said missionary, these rights are only balanced by might. So assuming these rights are god-given, then god must favor the powerful as their rights more often trump the rights of the weak. If the weak positioned person cannot exercise their rights due to the powerful, then they were "given" something they cannot use. Which is the same as not having been given them in the first place.

      February 12, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  12. historicalhusky2014

    @hawaii

    Robert is an interesting fellow...

    Hmm. I suppose I view it as judging a person, not the belief that many good people may also follow, that is important– on a case-by-case basis. Isn't it immoral to judge someone off of their personal beliefs rather than their character and how they treat others?
    God is all-loving and just in that He gives everyone the opportunity to be opened into the faith. There is no judgment for those who have not had the opportunity to be exposed to the word of the Lord and such. How is it immoral to give people an opportunity to be a part of something of higher nature– assuming that it is the case, that being the message? I think the concept of hell is overplayed, honestly. The bible speaks much less about that than the more important message of being forgiving and helping others.

    February 11, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • Free Nuts

      Sure gald they can not teach the creation bs in public schools in the US.

      Peace

      February 12, 2013 at 6:11 am |
    • fintastic

      Another personal interpretation from the book of pick-n-choose. The bible is such an awesome book because you can make it say whatever you want!.

      February 12, 2013 at 10:47 am |
      • historicalhusky2014

        The book is meant to be symbolic and interpreted... I'm not supporting people who take their interpretation and tell everyone that is how it is. There's no one right interpretation, I just happen to have been raised Catholic, so I identify myself as such. That doesn't mean all of my values are based off of the central Church.

        February 23, 2013 at 12:56 am |
  13. Bob

    Luk 8:19 Jesus' mother and brothers came to him, but were unable to join him because of the crowd.
    Luk 8:20 Someone said to Jesus, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you."
    Luk 8:21 Jesus said to them all, "My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and obey it."
    We are not called to be vile or curse but we are called to know who is not our brother and sister. Dont let lies be pulled over your eyes.

    February 11, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • fintastic

      Harry Potter = "Don't you understand? If Snape gets hold of the stone, Voldemort's coming back! Haven't you heard what it was like when he was trying to take over? There won't be any Hogwarts to get expelled from! He'll flatten it, or turn it into a school for the Dark Arts! Losing points doesn't matter anymore, can't you see? D'you think he'll leave you and your families alone if Gryffindor wins the house cup? If I get caught before I can get to the stone, well, I'll have to go back to the Dursleys and wait for Voldemort to find me there, it's only dying a bit later than I would have, because I'm never going over to the Dark Side! I'm going through that trapdoor tonight and nothing you two say is going to stop me! Voldemort killed my parents, remember?"

      I see your mythology and raise you one.

      February 13, 2013 at 8:04 am |
  14. More irony

    Must it? Or are you just reaching for an insult rather than being able to have a sense of humor?

    February 11, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If you think you're a comic, you should keep your day job.

      February 11, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
  15. More irony

    Atheists, as an agnostic I'd like to be more like Jesus in your eyes. How can I convince you that I don't exist?

    February 11, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
    • fintastic

      Actually, I'd like to be more like Jeff Beck.

      February 13, 2013 at 8:06 am |
  16. More irony

    The atheists are mad at the christians for not being more like a man who they say never existed. It boggles the mind really.

    February 11, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
    • sam stone

      saying someone was not divine is not the same as saying they did not exist

      February 11, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • Apatheist

      In one word...

      HYPOCRISY – The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's behavior does not conform.

      February 11, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • ..

      lol??, you enjoy your work with the boltgun at the slaughterhouse, don't you?

      February 12, 2013 at 3:12 am |
  17. Propaganda chorus

    Instead of the Hallelujah chorus..everyone together 1, 2, 3...

    Propaganda propaganda propaganda

    Propaganda propa-gand-ahhhhh!

    February 11, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
  18. God

    This man is going to hell, I'll tell satan to save a spot for him

    February 11, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • God

      Oh, and p.s. I don't exist.

      February 11, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
  19. Jeff--Tacoma

    I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.–Mahatma Gandhi

    February 11, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • historicalhusky2014

      That is largely true, but have some hope for the ones that try!

      February 11, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
    • just wondering

      Would that be the same gandhi that used to drink his own urine?

      February 11, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • Pete

      Gandhi is also the same person who said, love the sinner hate the sin, that xtians stole and isn't in the bible.

      February 11, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • just wondering

      Bottoms up pete.

      February 11, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • ..

      just wondering, you enjoy your job of port-a-potty cleaner, don't you?

      February 12, 2013 at 3:33 am |
  20. blayzekohime

    See that's the main problem I have with Christianity (and why I left the church initially). If it is correct, why are members no more or less likely to be good or evil than an Atheist?
    I wonder if I'll get a reply that proves me right.

    February 11, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • historicalhusky2014

      This covered quite a bit...what is your main problem?
      I've never seen being religious, agnostic, or atheist as being particularly superior or enlightened or more good. The purpose of Christianity is not to become a better person than another, but to become a better person than you were before by leading a moral life. Reconnecting with my religion has made me recognize that I am a sinner, to put it bluntly, and that isn't something to be particularly proud of or to be taken lightly. I've worked so much harder to help others and better myself since going back to Catholicism. Does this make me more good than certain atheists? Not necessarily. The Catholic church gets such a bad wrap, but the loud minority will always hurt the silent majority. I am highly respectful of all religions, and I do respect the rights of atheists to disagree– my main frustration with them is only when they fight what they claim to be bigotry with their own generalized bigotry.
      No Christian is made the same and the bible is largely symbolic– moreso than it will ever be literal. I think there is too much of a disconnect between the extremist passages (which are rarely literal) and the majority of the passages in the New Testament that preach acceptance when it comes to present-day discourse regarding Christianity.
      That's my two cents, not sure if it proved you right, or whatever you were looking for. I just pray that people can learn to become more accepting of every side.

      February 11, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Blayzekohime,

      The short answer to your question is the continuing war between the flesh and spirit of a believer. When we yield to the spirit, the fruits of the spirit are displayed. When we yield to the flesh, the fruits of the flesh are displayed.

      Matthew 26:41
      Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

      John 3:6
      That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

      Galatians 5:17-25
      For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
      But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
      If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

      Also the whole 8th chapter of Romans gives good info on this subject.

      Peace

      February 11, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Robert, I haven't experienced a war between my flesh and mind (you'd say spirit, I suppose). It's common enough to imagine they are separable. Imagining further that there is a struggle between them may not be healthy. Imagine them cooperating to Build a Better You (said with a true Joel Osteen grin).

      February 11, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Tom, Tom, the Other One,

      Before you can experience what I described you would have to be born of the spirit, born again as Jesus put it. The battle is between the holy spirit of God and the flesh, or human nature. From a humanist perspective I can do anything that I enjoy or want to do as long as I don’t harm another person. Nothing wrong with a little fornication or drunkenness for example if you hold to that line of thought, it wouldn’t conflict with your mind, but the holy spirit would convict you of it if you were one of his.

      February 11, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Tom, Tom, the Other One,

      You could even think of it in some ways as a conscience that agrees with God. I wouldn’t limit the holy spirit to that, because he does much more, but for the subject we are discussing it applies. The holy spirit also blesses the believer with spiritual blessings, helps us communicate with the God, and reveals spiritual truth to the believer.

      February 11, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      And as usual, Robert has nothing but assertions and circular reasoning.

      February 11, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Hawaiiguest,

      If it is helpful, you can consider all of it as my opinion, except the bible quotes of course.

      February 11, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Robert

      You're presenting it as reality, but it is your opinion. That has always been my objection to your posts. You present your own opinions as truth with absolutely no justification.

      February 11, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
    • historicalhusky2014

      @everyone
      I feel like I was ignored because I didn't use quotes or circular reasoning :'(

      February 11, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @historical

      Sorry, but it's Robert fun to expose the idiocy that is Robert. Here's the thing, I don't respect religion, at all. Especially christianity because the underlying message is so immoral. Believe or else is not a loving message, nor is it justifiable when you're talking about a god that is characterised as all-loving, or just. The very concept of hell is not just.

      February 11, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • historicalhusky2014

      @hawaii

      Robert is an interesting fellow...

      Hmm. I suppose I view it as judging a person, not the belief that many good people may also follow, that is important– on a case-by-case basis. Isn't it immoral to judge someone off of their personal beliefs rather than their character and how they treat others?
      God is all-loving and just in that He gives everyone the opportunity to be opened into the faith. There is no judgment for those who have not had the opportunity to be exposed to the word of the Lord and such. How is it immoral to give people an opportunity to be a part of something of higher nature– assuming that it is the case, that being the message? I think the concept of hell is overplayed, honestly. The bible speaks much less about that than the more important message of being forgiving and helping others.

      Also I think I may have posted this as not a reply originally. (oops)

      February 11, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @historical

      No matter how underplayed in the bible it is, the fact remains that it is there. And the "believe or else" doctrine is in no way underplayed in the bible, it's a central theme. Not only does the entire doctrine have absolutely no evidence that supports it, but it lauds faith as some kind of amazingly good thing, when in reality, the faith of a christian is no more distinguishable than the faith of a Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.

      As for all-loving and just, what you posted is not even remotely either of those things. There is no "opportunity", it's just "believe or else" as I said. In the OT it was "believe or god will kill you". In the NT it's "believe or burn forever". It's totalitarian bullshit. What's even worse, it's totalitarianism with absolutely no indication that the big bully is even real.

      February 11, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • historicalhusky2014

      @hawaii

      Well then maybe I am too lenient with my faith and interpretation? I am extremely accepting to other religions, although I do see what you mean. I suppose I use many messages given by the bible as justification and support for my personal morality rather than taking it all for what it is. Either way, it is true that the OT is brutal and the NT does have its implications, but it must be understood that the NT is largely symbolic as well.
      I'm not quite sure where else to go with this because I think my personal morals will get too much in the way of the technicalities of the faith that I sometimes avoid, as I would like to see the best in everyone regardless of faith, and see the bad regardless of faith.
      Also, one of my very best friends is a Muslim, so that may very well have affected the way of which I judge biblical messages.
      I'll give you that there is pressure to believe– but not EVERYONE goes to hell for not believing. I suppose I dwell on those few exceptions, but whatever. I'm just going to go back to leaving my respects on a case-by-case basis and helping the environment– that's my specialty anyway. Good listening to your perspective~

      February 11, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
    • historicalhusky2014

      Also, might I note that I had a long disconnect from my religion for a long period of time for personal reasons, some of which relate to the fact that I was brought up through an eastern-orthodox catholic church and various issues I had with them. I've since moved toward Roman Catholicism but I have issues with some church teachings, although I have spent a good deal of time reading the bible and use many of its messages as a backing for my own charitable ambitions. That's what attracted me to the church– there is a good deal of charitable work done here and I think it is spectacular, no matter the drive they may have that is different from my own.

      February 11, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    • ..

      lol??, you enjoy being the fluff girl for Ron Jeremy, don't you?

      February 12, 2013 at 3:41 am |
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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.