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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. Brookst

    What a lovely article. I'm an atheist but have respect for other people's beliefs and think that being nice, by all religions and non-believers is the key to real dialogue.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Leeroy

      Absolutely spot on. It's unfortunate that so many think it's wise to focus on our differences. That is so devisive. We have so much more in common. We need to focus on those commonalities much more if we expect to ever enjoy "world peace". For example, you are a self proclaimed Athiest and I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Yet, we both recognize that at the core of basic human beliefs, no matter what religion, or lack thereof, is the need to love one another and get along with one another. :)

      February 10, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  2. John Stefanyszyn

    Mr.Dickerson,
    As you said "...Christ will return to rule the world." This is true.
    Will you be embarrasef of Him when He will put an end to the way of life which believes in one's free will, in freedom of self rights, in freedom of all religions...which dictates that it is right to be free to worship any god?

    For as you said it is Only Christ that will rule...according to the One Will of the Creator ...and man will serve Him Alone and his own will.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • John Stefanyszyn

      Typo correction...
      ...and NOT his "own will".

      February 10, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • jvburrows

      Trust me, with anti-christian pushers in the white house and the justice department, they will try to crucify him all over again. You cant even put a cross in your front yard anymore without risk of getting sued, and our government does zero to step in and say its there right, there land, there religious freedom. They say atheist might be offended, but isnt it offensive to not be able to have your own property, whether residential or commercial, adorned in your religious beliefs? They want to stop christian prayer circles in public parks, but will shut down downtown NYC for islamic prayer (and yes, they do) so they can have hundreds prayer together on mats right in the road on certain holidays. Look, be atheist, its your life and your choice. I dont go around preaching to anyone and will not push my religion on anyone, but I want religious freedom that is just as powerful in the courts as atheist are. I also want a government who doesnt lie about being christian and take photo ops in churches but doesnt live what they say they do. True christians wouldnt get up and change your religious beliefs for votes (gay marriage) and demand everyone do it also, true christians wouldnt tell chaplains in the military they can be fired if they dont go against there own religous beliefs and back rules against there beliefs (and yes they did, dont believe the press that the gov controls, ask a chapain yourself), and tell fellow chrisitians to abandon there beliefs so you can have free abortions anytime you want one. Oh, and the church this man went to, watch the videos of the sermons, dont believe CNN and others when they call this church christian. I know he denies he was a member, but the church went on national television and proved he was a member on the rolls for over 20 years, him and his wife. But this church is so far from christian its not even a church really. Its a hate group that is preaches violence and hate against anything white. Seriously, just watch the sermons and you will be amazed how the press didnt pick this up when he was campaigning, but then again, almost all press outlets are very clearly federally controlled so theres is your reason.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • Hello

      John.. read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill....
      The christian myth was created as a political tool for the Roman Flavian family.. to save Rome not souls.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  3. Leeroy

    Amen Bruthah! Good article. I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and some hate us so much, they create angry videos and publish all sorts of angry distortions about us. I know other religions also receive their fair share of being picked on. Very unfortunate. Hopefully this article will help those who spend so much of their time, money and talent in such angry ways, see the errors of their ways. Thanks.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  4. treblemaker

    If you want to know the true nature of Christianity, talk to a Jewish convert. I find that 99% of those who call themselves Christians have no clue about the origins of their faith. They're only taught what to believe in, and like sheep, they're led astray by the very people they trust-the blind leading the blind. Jewish believers are the ones that truly give up EVERYTHING in order to "follow Him"! There is a difference between religion and faith. Religion originates from the mind, which we all know is the devil's playground. Faith originates from the heart, which we all know is the door to which we allow the Son of God, the Jewish messiah, to enter into our lives, showing our eternal spirits the only way back home to the Heavenly Father. Along the way, our faith is continually tested. Christianity has been turned into a "feel good" religion by "new age" pastors. The devil has to be pleased. True Christianity is a raw boned, tough-as-nails, sacrificial faith where, if we all were to look in the mirror, we all fall short. That means ALL OF US!!!

    February 10, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Hello

      religion has always catered to its audience. It must walk a fine line between its total control and its ability to
      keep the money coming in.
      If it goes too far in total control and becomes unbelievable it will loose its income. it provides a collection platform to join collective thinking as in BORG mind control but must also provide a reward. feel good aspect for it to be sweet to those who's attention must be constantly drawn back to the flock for fleecing.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  5. Rude Awakening

    My Take – What do you prefer, to be reminded of your sins?, or to be decapitated for your sins?

    February 10, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Hello

      the truth does not need a punishment or reward to be believed. lies do.

      Myths... created as political tools include force as a punishment and reward system to get and maintain their control over their audience. That is why all of the Jewish rooted spin off myths ( Christianity, and its many flavors, Islam, Mormon etc) have very strict laws on belief... that include death inflicted by fellow believers and after death punishments. It is mafia tactics created by the original Italian Mob family the Flavians.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:35 am |
  6. heartbrkn

    As a pastor, this article speaks my thoughts pretty clearly. I believe that God is embarrassed by those who wrap up their hatred in the cloak of Christianity. Those that spew hate live in fear of those who dare to disagree with them. Christians, listen up! Let go of the fear and embrace what it means to love those same people who make you feel uneasy. Let everyone remember that we are called to overcome evil with good.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Hello

      please read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill...

      February 10, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  7. Nate

    How 'nice' can you be when the desperate goal of your life is to avoid the basement torture room that your mandatory best friend created?

    February 10, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  8. Rex Clifton

    Finally, someone talking common sense. We are all made in the Image of God, therefore looking on anyone with scorn or hate is looking on the image of God with scorn or hate. The "hate the sin, love the sinner" line is a copout that needs to go away. We christians need to start holding ourselves and eachother accountable for our speech and actions. Thankyou Pastor for this enlightning article.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • Matthew

      That line is not a copout. A Christian does hate sin and loves people.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Brandon

      @Matthew, in theory, yes. In practice it is used to justify hate. An awful lot of people think they can trip up God with semantics.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  9. Gloria

    Most people who rant against Christians, are doing it because of the far-right Christians who interpret scrlipture to meet their busybody, or medlelsome ways. It isn't all Christians but we're lumped in with them.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • lolCAT2000

      imho there is a strategy behind this "lumping" too though – it's the "us" vs. "them" of Atheist fundamentalists – a minority within the group of people to who religion doesn't mean so much.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:25 am |
  10. jon

    I can understand why so many Christians say angry and hateful things. They are trying to defend a religion that is completely indefensible. Deep down, they must know that all of Jesus' magic tricks, the virgin birth, the trinity, and all the rest of it is completely ridiculous. Then you add to that the Church's history, where they killed, tortured, forcibly converted, and robbed millions upon millions of people, all in the name of a "loving god". Modern history is no better: molesting children, attempting to infiltrate and dumb down our education system, telling African converts that condoms SPREAD the AIDS virus, and so much more.

    Its sad that in an era in which Muslim fundamentalists are blowing themselves up and causing havoc, Christianity is STILL the biggest blight to our civilization in its entire history.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Bill

      Amen.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • lolCAT2000

      ...what do you want to be the case instead?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:30 am |
  11. jaypilars

    It is very sad to see how many people are hurt here. I am a Christian and proud of it!
    Wherever you go throughout life you will meet good and bad self proclaimed Christians, Muslims, Hindus and any other belief out there. Just because there are a few bad apples in the bunch, doesn't mean the whole bunch is spoiled.
    I encourage all of you to reexamine your thoughts, comments and belief about Christianity.
    May you find your love for Christ and be the light to a dark world.

    Cheers

    February 10, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • lolCAT2000

      When is someone going to write an article about Dawkins calling people "idiots" and "morons"?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • lolCAT2000

      (apologies, that last comment wasn't about your post jaypilars)

      "be the light in a dark world" – exactly!
      Why not be the light in a dark world.
      Anti-religionists say they are "the light of reason against the darkness of irrational beliefs",

      but there are other, more urgent darknesses we need to be a light for as well.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Andrew

      Unfortunately most of the bunch seems to be rotten and stupid. Not worth a second look. I encourage you to quit believing in magic fake crap and focus instead on the things in your life with substance, not mythological distractions.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  12. Joseph Richardson, MD

    While I believe whole heartedly that Jesus is the messiah, the savior of ALL mankind, I stopped calling myself a Christian long ago because I didn't want to be associated with some of the vocal idiots who spew a doctrine of hate in Jesus' name. To quote Donald Miller, "What I believe is not what I say I believe, what I believe is what I do."

    February 10, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Dave Green

      Exactly! Or as James put it. "You show me your faith without works, and I'll how you my faith by what I do."

      February 10, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  13. MOM2FOURHOMESCHOOLERS

    And this is why there will be a separating within the church (not between the church & the lost – that will already be decided). The goats from the sheep – WITHIN THE CHURCH. Truly converted being sorted from the church goers who don't have the goods. In one account of telling this – in parable form – He says the sheep will be on one side and the goats on the other. He will say to the sheep that they have upheld his work well, when I was hungry, when I was in jail . . . and they will say when did I ???? Being loving will become so natural to the true convert that acts of love are done without even realizing it ! Also – let's not forget the scripture to live in peace with all men (and holiness) without which you will not see the Lord. So many times we, the church, battle over the word holiness in that scripture that we forget the instruction to be peaceful with others (not stir up controversy) and no that does not equate to being a door mat. It is obvious when something is done in a mean spirit, spitefullly, or with hate. For me – all I can do is to take my own daily moral inventory, I surely want to be showing signs of one truly converted. I want to truly be light, and salt with savor. Because of who HE is I want to be a sheep – even if there are times I think a goat may have more going for it, or fun.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • RdWhtNBlu

      All that & you're home schooling your kids! Lol!

      February 10, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  14. True Believer

    I'm not embarrassed to believe that Jesus performed cool tricks that were conceivable in his time, but that Jesus did not perform tricks that are conceivable today. Such as appearing in the dreams of every human being. Jesus did not do such things because Jesus is not a SHOW OFF. Jesus could have done that if he wanted to. He still can. And he probably will do it in the future.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:18 am |
  15. lulu

    Why all the Christian bashing- stop and think- me thinks its about pushing another agenda- duh

    February 10, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • Jim

      Why? The hate-filled ignoramuses are not confined to one religious sect – they are found in all of them including the atheist camp. It is just 'chic' to spew the hatred overflowing from your heart when it is aimed at Xians.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:27 am |
  16. MTGRIZZ

    It seems that a lot of anger is being directed at an article that is
    just saying 'be nice'. Maybe all of you religion haters should
    calm down and read a good book. (THE GOOD BOOK)

    February 10, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • everything in Moderation

      You were making a good poin until you lost it in that last little pun. I'm sure it made you smile as you hit "post" but t really doesn't seem worth it to me.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • lulu

      Just waiting for churches to be converted to bath houses and all will be forgiven...

      February 10, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • Andrew

      How do we know what book gods word? they all clam they are. Religon is dumb its based on silly books that man wrote. Now faith is different i do different in god but i dont need a stupid book to support that. If i walk into a room and i see the pieces of a clock on a table, and come back to the room a few hours later and see the parts put back together I would assume that some intelligence put them together. This is the same for the universe.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Rev Foistus Uponyou

      Maybe you religious nuts should get off your soap box.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  17. Dave Green

    For weeks now, I've been commenting on articles here on CNN. A lot of important stuff going on and It's kind of nice to throw in in my two cents, for what little it's worth. One of the things that has surprised me a little, is the obsession that many seem to have with money. We've been commenting back on forth on taxes, government spending, etc, and it's clear to me that not only do many of you love money, you worship it.
    Maybe none of you are Christians, though that seems unlikely, given that 80% of the country identifies themselves as Christian, so what gives? Is it not Christianity that teaches "For the love of money is the root of all evil?" Hey, who am I right? Just some guy on a comment page on CNN. You don't owe me any explanation, and you can justify and rationalize it until you're blue in the face, but I think you're going to find, that if you DO end up before God on judgment day, that all your rationalizations will account for nothing. I would suggest you read Mathew 25.. The parable of the sheep’s’ and goats.
    Eitherway, maybe if you Christians actually acted the way you claim to believe, you wouldn't get so much criticism. *shrug* Just a thought

    February 10, 2013 at 8:17 am |
  18. pray

    I disagree with part of your premise. I believe that this is yet another example of the old cliché "The squeaky wheel gets the grease”. In this case, the grease is media attention. And I have to say that Stating “because many of our number are” is really bending over for the media’s bias and in my mind is tantamount to saying many Muslims are extremist jihadist's, which is equally not true.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • everything in Moderation

      He didn't call Christians extremists. It's not a good comparison.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  19. Curmudgicus

    There is a trademark behavior to all of the religions that derive from Abraham – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Their adherents do not suffer non-believers gladly. This ideological component to what ought to be a spiritual path is perhaps what many non-Christians find difficult to live with. I have yet to meet a Buddhist who harangues and badgers me on Buddha's perfect love for weeks on end. I will say this however; if I genuinely and truly believed that my subsequent existence for all eternity depended on how I lived for the next fifty short years, I would not be holding down a job and complaining about taxes. I would go out into the world and do all the good works I could with my own two hands with the love of God in my heart to secure that place for eternity. Call it "saving for my real retirement."

    February 10, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • everything in Moderation

      Excellent post!

      Let me rephrase that: EXCELLENT POST!

      February 10, 2013 at 8:31 am |
  20. rwhntx

    Being a Christian in the West has become more about a church movement than it is being a dsciple who immerses to live as Christ and the Bible instructs. A disciple can give their opinion but never to condemn, hate, or tear down. What this article addresses is the result of the church spending more time learning to market itself rather than develop disciples who if lived as Christ would influence mankind.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • everything in Moderation

      Yup.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:31 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.