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 only have a relationship with God because he displayed grace by overlooking the things that we did that offended him. We didn't change immediately, but it is a life long process with fits and starts. We can be assured that he will not give up on us for our bad periods. Christians, above all people, should be familiar with that model of relationship and practice relentless patience with each messy life.
enough Christian Bashing learn another tune please.
TO Lulu —
I have observed that ACTUAL Christians almost NEVER are criticized, belittled, or “bashed.”
That’s because ACTUAL Christians are fair-minded and unobtrusive people who OBEY Jesus’ key command in Romans 13;8-10, and are NOT bigots who run around stridently whining and seeking to deprive tens of millions of people (e.g., girls, women, and gays) of huan and civil rights for no good reason.
The PSEUDO-Christians who DISOBEY Jesus by doing that are the ones who very justifiably are being criticized. But unfortunately, the False-Teacher leaders of the RRR Cult have done such an effective job of programming society to *regard* them as being representative of Christianity, that ACTUAL Christians are being painted and tainted with the brush of bigotry that only the RRR Cult’s leaders and lemmings have earned, and deserve. Which is really sad! Because the RRR Cultists comprise only 6% of the 2/3 of Americans who profess Christianity. The OTHER 94% of professing Christians are the quiet and fair-minded ACTUAL Christians. And the people who made the human rights victories of Banner Day 11-6-13 possible from coat-to-coast! (We comprise the MAJORITY of America’s population. And we are TIRED of being unfairly bashed in the name of the hatefulness that is practiced by the RRR Cultists!
I am often extremely embarrassed to be a secular liberal. We are often sarcastic, righteous, and caustic in an attempt to rid ourselves of blame and pin all the ills of the world (past and present) on some old world notion of spirit. It is quite scary and confusing, and completely short sided. And if you do believe me just watch the vitriol this response will bring.
Interesting... no vitriol detected. In fact only one responce calling you a Poe. Unsucessful troll is unsucessful.
Just as there are bad eggs in any group, such as cops or anything, there will be radicals in religious groups as well. Unfortunately the media will hype up the bad because society eats it up. For every 1 so called bad christian there are hundreds that are doing good in this world. From helping others, doing missions and things like that. A lot of people like to spread the word not to boast about it but to try and portray the love they feel that fills there lives to hopefully bring that to someone elses life if that person so chooses. Things spread by hearing and seeing things. Jesus spread his love through actions and words, not to boast, but to do just that...spread the love.
Most of you Christians I come in contact with are arrogant deluded assholes who fight against science and reason and are most concerned how others live their lifes.
@JJ – i'm sorry you feel that way and have so much hate it seems towards christians. Believe me we are not all arrogant. I am very humble and thankful for everything I have in my life, no matter how much or how little.
JJ: Actually, I suspect that most Christians you come in contact with probably don't even mention that they are Christians unless you ask them about their religion. Most of the Christians I know simply go about "being nice", and not standing up and saying "look at me, I'm a Christian, that's why I'm a nice person" – in part because they believe that you CAN be a nice person and not be a Christian, unlike the louder, ruder Christians.
I have to agree with JJ – finding a loving, tolerant christian in America today is about as likely as finding a gold nugget the size of your head in your backyard.
@SixDegrees – there are many out there, it's just things like westbaptist church you here about on tv portray a very negative image. I'm a christian and do not go about boasting about it. I'm there to help anyone. I may portray things on like facebook b ecause i post things i like. I also say God bless you when someone sneezes. That being said, i'm not perfect and am no better than anyone else in this world. So I think there are very loving, compassionate christians all over this world who are very humble. It's just hard to see that at times when things are portrayed through the media just like cops get a bad rap for a select few.
TO JJ —
The bigoted and hateful people you refer to are DELIGHTED that most Americans seem to have fallen for their deception that they are Christians, and are representative of Christianity. However, they are not even REMOTELY so. To see the TRUTH about them, and about the people whose good name they are besmirching, go HERE —
Look how far they have come. No more church sanctioned inquisitions, crusades, wilch trials, massacres of native peoples, etc. etc. just a little bigotry and hate speech for women that seek family planning, LBGT community, other christians that do not conform to their belief, etc. etc. While parts of Islam are still in the dark ages, some of the christian groups seem to be back sliding into hatred and intolerance and they know who they are. The major christian religions talk a good game "we follow the teachings of jesus christ" but their actions, greed, crimes, cover ups, bigotry, put a lie to their teachings. Be nice, hell I would be stisfied if they would just mind their own business, including the author, keep your babble verses to your own flock, that would be nice.
You just inserted yourself into a belief forum to tell a believer not to have an article about belief.
The first word to come to mind is: hypocrite.
BS belief is not the exclusive right of you christian types, as a deist I believe in the concept of a god, just not one you have to kiss its asz to get along, get educated.
BS belief is not the exclusive right of you christian types, as a deist I believe in the concept of a god, just not one you have to kiss its asz to get along, get educated."
Your assumption of what I represent aside, your post failed because it is hypocritical, plain and simple. CNN has a lot of sections to read that don't contain articles about religion. The article here isn't shoving anything at you. YOU, on the other hand, have entered this arena to tell them to stop speaking.
As for who I am, what I believe/do not believe and what I've read: It is silly to make assumptions about people you have never met and obviously never read the other posts of. By making assumptions, and posting as if you are asserting yourself against their imaginary ignorance, you mark yourself far more than you do your target.
It is very easy to show how the Judeo Christian god is an invention of man, though.
1. Only in late Bronze Age Palestine had anybody heard of this god. The millions of people living elsewhere in the World had never heard of it. All of the people living in China, Eaurope, Africa, India, the Australian Aboriginals had never heard of it until humans from Palestine gradually moved out and "spread the word".
Does it really make sense that a being would create the an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,720,000,000 years ago (the age of the Universe) sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,720,000,000 years for human beings to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle East.
While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of the Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies.
Second, does it not appear to you a little silly that, of all the countless millions of people, this god would make the Jews its "chosen race" and obsess with giving them a host of rules, most relevant only to farmingcommunities. Hmmm, did god creat the Jewish farmers or did the Jewish farmers create God....
Next, the stories of Christianity are not even original. They are borrowed directly from earlier mythology from the Middle East. Genesis and Exodus, for example, are clearly based on earlier Babylonian myths such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Jesus story itself is straight from the stories about Apollonius of Tyana, Ho.rus and Dionysus (including virgin birth, the three wise men, the star in the East, birth at the Winter solstice, a baptism by another prophet, turning water into wine, crucifixion and rising from the dead).
Next, the Bible is also literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including, genocide, murder, slavery, r.ape and the complete subjugation of women. All of this is due to when and where it was written, the morality of the times and the motives of its authors and compilers. While this may be exculpatory from a literary point of view, it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration.
By the way, we have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on. We know that the traditional story of it being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is almost certainly wrong. For example, the Gospel of Matthew includes a scene in which Jesus meets Matthew, recounted entirely in the third person!! Nevertheless, we are called upon to accept the most extraordinary claims by these unknown people, who wrote between 35 to 65 years after Christ died and do not even claim to have been witnesses. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Koresh at Waco – who wrote 35 years after the fact and wasn’t there.
When backed into a corner, Judeo-Christianity admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it. However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something (which it most certainly is not, any more than “faith” that pixies exist is) one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Christian based on the “leap of faith” – and then turn around and say those who believe in, for example, the Hindu gods, based on the same leap, got it wrong. In a dark room without features, any guess by a blind man at the direction of the door is as valid as the other 359 degrees.
Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams, and prejudices. Do you think they all exist? If not, why only yours?
No, Kalessein, faith is not even belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more substantial than the hope for a good future and no more substantial that the "hope for a good future" and no more universal universal than the language you speak or the baseball team you support.
We are a frightened little species and we need to avoid the inevitablility of death. We create our gods to do just that and to explain those parts of nature we cannot explain or control. Fortunately, the penetrating light of science and knowledge has flushed this "god of the gaps" out of his hiding place. He is now forced to inhabit those few remaining dark patches science has not yet fully exposed. The origins of life is one, the uncritical mind of the believer is another.
Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it.
The writers of the christian myth has been discovered. It was the Roman Caesar family the Flavians. Read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill. Also for some very interesting information on the Jewish myth go to the web site The Domain of Man.
Just another throw more gas on the fire post by CNN. How much did you earn here Chris? I'm guessing $250.
I'm glad CNN has this blog. You Christians can't hide your hate and agenda anymore and that's what you want. Your propoganda no longer works. You can't continue to damage our country and not be outed for it.
You bring the gasoline and blame him for the match.
Another "pastor" who's trying to defend Joel Osteen. Osteen gets called out b/c he's a false teacher. Mark Driscoll did the same thing last week. Only a few select "preachers" have over 1 million followers and Joel has exactly 1.3 million. These cats just don't get it. People are being deceived and sent to hell and it doesn't bother them one bit. PC in the church is destroying the church....
Thank you for so eloquently proving the author's point.
Yes, Culture Christian Jerk behavior is mostly what the rest of us see everyday. But what say you about the nice, polite Christians who are pushing the Kill th Gays bill in Uganda, not all Black or Ugandan, but some very prominent White Christian Americans? Or the nice Christians pushing lots of money and pressure to prop up Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel for the so(u)l purpose of making Armageddon come true? Or those nice Christians driving women into an abortion corner while terrorizing the lives of people providing abortions if not outright murdering them, or celebrating murderers as heroes? Or those nice Christians trying to shut down Planned Parenthood even though only 3% of its services are abortion-related? Or those nice Christians who shun Science as a fraud and replace it with Religion? Do they really think it was God holding the airplanes they fly in the air? And what about those nice Christians who burn down Muslim centers? How about those nice Christians who want to replace this democracy with a Christian Republic, consider this a Christian Country, and praise the wealthy while sneering at the poor and have plans for all the non-believers or not-quite-good-enough believers the day they turn American into a Christian Republic?
You have a much bigger divide on your hands.
After you bash the Christians who is next- or is this the basis of your agenda-
Thank you, Mr. Dickerson. You've put into words something that I've wanted to say, and have said privately, many times. Thing is, the people you're trying to talk to will refuse to look in the mirror and see themselves. I'd be even more direct than you are. There are a great many Christians out there who are childish, selfish, and immature. And they think they are following the command to be childlike in their faith.
More leaders inside the Christian community need to say these things. Many don't dare because they'll loose members, they'll see their donations go down, they'll loose their TV ratings. Thing is, there is a whole lot in the Bible about how one is supposed to live, how one is supposed to treat others.
Good article. Yes, I have seen both. But my observation is that the people who claim to be born-again an are the biggest megaphones for Jesus are the ones who are most likely to be narrow-minded, judgmental, and bigoted. Maybe they don't know any better.
"I used to be all messed up on drugs, then I found the Lord. Now I'm all messed up on the Lord."
Born Agains are the most offensive of the whole bunch, they just can not shut the *#$* up about their conversion and how everyone else should climb on board. Better to run the other way than approach one.
John, my questions for atheists is why is there always a focus on the christian based religions? The billboards and you tube attacks are typically aimed at Christianity. So where are the aims at the Islam, Hinduism, Judaism or Buddhism? I understand the diverse groups in Christianity causes some of the issues, but by generalizing us all in one group it is as bad as saying all Muslims are terrorists. Certainly there are many people who are Christian in belief that would like Westboro Baptist Church to be shut down or to cease. Nonetheless it doesn't answer the question to ask Atheists why their are no rants on these other religions. I think they are scared because many of the other religions are intolerant to any slander toward their God.
" So where are the aims at the Islam, Hinduism, Judaism or Buddhism? " Let me know when those folks try to codify their beliefs thru civil legislation.
We don't hate Christians. We detest religion in all of it's forms. It's not the people, but rather it's the false nature of believing in that which doesn't exist. I truly believe to each their own how ever. If that's your thing, then so be it. Just don't try to ram it down other people's throats. I had some "Christians" show up at my door with their young son in tow. I simply told the father that he didn't want to discuss my thoughts on "god" while glancing at his son. It works both ways folks. I would hope a "Christian" would have the same respect that I showed that family.
Thanks, Pastor Dickerson,
I'm an agnostic but one who has always regarded Jesus as a man who preached compassion and tolerance. Peace unto him and to you and the other Christians who follow his teachings. More and more I believe that religion is neither good nor evil - it is we who are responsible as we choose - freely - to use or abuse the teachings of the great ethical philosophers. None advocated hate or malice!
Well maybe they should not have created the wedge !!!
The wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Insti-tute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Insti-tute manifesto known as the Wedge Docu-ment, which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda whose ultimate goal is to defeat materialism, naturalism, evolution, and "reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic
This is one of the most detremental acts of Christians. Christians have always been on the forefront against reason and science.
They lost at the Dover trial and they are still pushing.
Glad they can not teach craetion/ID in public schools in US .
Education suffers becuase of the wedge.
In every crisis in my life, it's been the NON-Christians who stepped up to help. The Christians skipped merrily away, tossing over their shoulder "I'll pray for you." Am I the only one who remembers the hymn goes "Here I am, send me, send me" ... not "Here I am, I'll pray for someone else to do the work"?
Did I miss the memo? Is this the part of the article where all the non-Christians are posting?
To be a Christian means to do what Christ would do. It's an easy formula because most people can easily tell what Christ would do in any situation. But almost no Christians follow this simple rule. Almost none.
True. I'd rather hang with the Pagans and Wiccans, who are more helpful and concerned than the Christians. Especially those Christians who've swallowed the conservative party line and tout things that are decidedly UNChristian!
Wrong...To be a Christian is to trust what Jesus did for you. You cannot no way, no how, do what Christ did. Jesus was perfection and that something you can never attain. Jesus is the reason you have salvation, redemption and all the other gifts that God has given you.
When you go the route if I can do it because Jesus did it....You nullify what Jesus went through ,,,his death and Resurrection.
I grew up in the church. I have a degree in Bible from a Texas Southern Baptist university. I was actually an associate pastor and a youth minister for a short period of time. A few years ago I finally came to understand that Christianity was make believe. If that is what you want to believe because somebody scared you as a child or your life really sucked and believing in something helped you through life that is great.
Even before I made my decision I was always able to find nicer friendlier people outside the church. As a matter of fact the less somebody talked about religion and the less they went to church the nicer they were. Anybody who deals with the public knows that the first most hatful wave of hate mail comes from “Christians”. Anybody who works in food service at least in the Bible belt knows that Sunday is the worst time to be a server. The after church crowd is rude and hardly ever tips. There was even a story of a pastor recently that crossed off an 18% added tip (because of large group) and put zero and left a note that said “I give 10% to Christ why would I give you 18%”
The Church has jumped the shark. It has become a din of hatred. It is taught from the pulpit. I have never met a pastor that did not have deep violent hatred for Obama. If the church really believes the Bible they need to follow it. If the church did what the Bible said there would be no need for gov social programs or even social security. Pastors need to spend less time buying Rolexes and expensive cars and building opulent churches and putting themselves on TV and more time teaching and practicing love. They need to give large amounts to pay for medical expenses and open non profit hospitals. Open medical schools that require graduates to work for a normal wage so that medical costs go down. Do something to get cheaper drugs for people.
Christians are not known for love they are known for hate.
Oh snap!! These comments are crazy definitive of what we see everyday. People have ruined Christianity. It's one thing that Atheists and other religions dismiss beliefs in God, but MANY "good" Christians just make it less credible. Jesus was not hateful and arrogant. MANY would-be Christians certainly are. They've turned Christs teachings into a veritable CLOWN SHOW...and insist that they are doing it right? Dang.
Same here. Degree from a religious college, attended a religious graduate school, minister's wife ... and now former Christian. Whenever I've needed help, it's been the NON-Christians who did what was needed, while the Christians only wanted to pray for someone else to help me. The church itself screwed us over, just one of many things in life that left me hurt and confused - I played by the rules and this was the reward I got? Eventually realized that there is absolutely no evidence in my own life for the existence of a God. The triumphs were because I was mentally and physically strong, not because some mythical God worked magic. The things that were beyond the power of human hands were the things that proved that prayer was useless; if there is a God, he never stepped in to smooth my way, only to dump more obstacles. When I prayed for help in cleaning up after a husband who left a trail of disaster in his wake, I didn't get a husband whose actions were changed, I didn't get enough extra money to pay a housekeeper - I got an incurable illness that made it even harder to clean until after midnight every night so I wouldn't be too too terribly embarrassed if the slob invited someone home spur of the moment. (Because, never mind that it was his religious books and his clothes and his coffee cups - which I don't drink - if there was stuff scattered around the living room, even if I wasn't home, it was because I am a terrible housekeeper and not because he's a slob who can un-do 12 hours of cleaning in 15 minutes.)
I met a Christian once. He was living under a blue tarp between the river and the RR tracks. He let me get warm beside his fire and he shared his dinner with me. He never said one word about Jesus or faith, he only spoke of kindness. The lamp of Providence isn’t lit by words, it is lit by deeds.
And how is Mr. Haggard?
I do not believe in god, but that right there is a true Christian, Muslim, etc.
ITs been awhile Ron how come you never stubble back to jesus sleeping bag by the rail road tracks no mo?
So very well said Ron. As the other folks have commented, the truth is very clear. As Christians we are to live and act as Christ did. That carries a very heavily responsibility. I am a hospital chaplain and what I like about my job is that I see people of all faiths and all denominations, and many with no faith at all. I am not there to preach to them or cram my beliefs down anyone's throats. My job is to bring love and comfort to those who are suffering. To family members who are grieving. To medical staff who are crying because they just lost a patient. The bible says that the greatest gift is love. That is the best gift that anyone could give. It is definitely what Jesus was all about. Who does not enjoy being loved? Who does not like having someone care and listen to them? If more people would take seriously the core foundation of Christianity and set love as their foundation, the world would be a better place.
Religion was (somewhat) useful in ancient times. However, religion has no practical purpose in modern day society.
In modern day society religion has been and continues to be used to hinder any and all forms of social and scientific progress.
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.