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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. stuart

    If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

    1 Corinthians 13:2

    February 10, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  2. Mennoknight

    Great article!

    February 10, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  3. Charlotte

    He's hit the nail on the head. Americans talk about extremists in other religions around the world ( Islam for example) and we have the same thing here with Christianity. Even Jesus had issues with the extremists of his day. Remember his words about the Temple?

    February 10, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • centeredpiece

      We do NOT have "the same thing here." Come on – are Jews bombing people? Are Christians driving planes into towers? Spirited – or even mean-spirited – debate cannot be compared to the slaughter of people for not believing the same thing. Moral equivalency between words and blood is ridiculous.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • Kait

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_terrorism#United_States

      The problem is that it's only terrorism when brown people do it.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  4. saggyroy

    “Is it possible for someone to truly trust Christ and spend their entire life tweeting hate?” – Not only is it possible, Christians throughout their history and culture are expected to. Otherwise they aren't true Christians.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  5. POD

    Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself.......end of discussion.....any questions?

    February 10, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • El Flaco

      As usual, there are a few hundred possible interpretations of that verse, and Christians of this sect or that one believe every one of them. The most common interpretation is that it is a rule that applies only to Christians. That is, if your neighbor is not a Christian – and a good one in your opinion – then you have no obligation to love him.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  6. Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

    When Christians take an offensive stand against gays, or any other group they disdain, they are disobeying the teachings of Christ and committing the grievous sin of blasphemy. They assume to be God by forcefully pushing legal agendas like proposition 8 in California.

    Christians, if you're wondering what the antichrist looks like...you might just look in the mirror.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  7. I Am God.

    I have seen many of these hatefilled comments, especially the ones dealing with the Sandyhook massacre. Many of these so-called Christians claim that the massacre occurred because God isn't allowed in our schools anymore. Has to be the dumbest thing I have ever heard of. Do you honestly think that this wouldn't have happened if Sandyhook had God in school? And don't you realize we don't have "God" in schools any more because we have children with multiple religious beliefs now?

    February 10, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • LivinginVA

      One of the best commentaries I saw on that was along the lines of "So you really believe that American law can prevent God from going into schools? Your God is pretty darn weak." Oh, and it was written by a Christian minister.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • I Am God.

      That Christian minister was a wise one then LivinginVA.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:57 am |
  8. kahnkeller

    hummm...lenin...who was wrong on just about every thing he supported in politics and economics.... was 100% correct on one statement... religion is the opiate of the people....

    February 10, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • MesaMax

      Another foolish comment.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • Damocles

      @mesa

      How is the statement foolish? It's what Lenin said. Sheesh.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      Isn't it cute so see a stereotypical Christian hater like Mesa Max?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • centeredpiece

      Hardy – in Lenin's day people were illiterate and hardly any of them had actually read the Bible. If you actually read the NT, you will find it to be more revolutionary and egalitarian than any communist manifesto. And seriously, today opiates (not to mention other prescription drugs ,booze, weed TV, shopping, sports, etc) are the opiates of the masses.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:04 am |
  9. stevie68a

    Someone once said, "the fastest way to become an atheist, is to read the bible". So true.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • MesaMax

      You are foolish.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • snowboarder

      i attended parochial school my entire young life, but i hadn't read the bible since graduating. so i sat down one day and attempted to start at the beginning online, sincei don't have a bible in the house. i didn't get far. the stories are just so outlandish and ridiculous. it is like watching a bad movie that requires you to suspend disbelief just to get through it.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • a dose of reality

      Mesah Maxx calls averyone foolish while obviously disagreeing but providing absolutely NO REASONS. Now hwo is the one that looks foolish Mesah Fool?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • Hammerdown

      I read the bible as a religious book.
      Garbage.
      I then read the bible as a "historical" book.
      Still garbage.

      February 10, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  10. cwheelock

    Funny how a pastor writes an article about not being hateful, yet look at many of the comments by unbelievers. The people who push tolerance tend to me the most intolerant people around... Some on here like "A dose of reality" need to read at least PART of the Bible and get a sense for what a Christian worldview really is... your posts are made up of mostly stereotypical characteristics of Christianity that non-believers have made up over time... please figure out what Christians really believe before you bash them please.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • midwest rail

      It isn't a case of what Christians are supposed to believe, rather that contemporary Christians bear so little resemblance to those ideals.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      Are you against gay marriage? Freedom of choice for women?

      Yup, you're another intolerant, self-righteous, sanctimonious "Christian".

      February 10, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • gremlinus

      I have read the bible through twice and I'm not a believer. You see stereotypical comments on here because, like with other things, those are the loudest ones and the ones the media focuses on because they entertain on some morbid level. The only thing I hate is the word "tolerance." Difference aren't things to be be tolerated, differences are things to be embraced. Mostly, I mean if someone is a serial killer, I'm not really into celebrating that. Or tolerating it.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • catfishgrazis14

      What do christians really believe? They share, with most other religions, belief in the childish fairy tales of god, jesus, the resurrection, heaven and hell...on and on. religion, and christians and muslims in particular, have brought death, misery, hate, and intolerance to the world. I grew up in the catholic church. And now i recognize it as one of the most hypocritical and evil organizations in the history of mankind. religion is truly the drug of choice of humankind..

      February 10, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  11. The Truth

    True Christians are nice. The problem is the world is full of false Christianity that just believe if they follow Jesus then they are going to heaven. They follow the popular paths. They go to church on Sunday and then sleep with their pastor, gossip, judge others, etc. ("So and so did what? They are going to hell!") They do not follow the word of Christ but follow the teachings of their scribes and pharisees. These are the ones that took the Bible and changed it to appease the populace and preached it to appease you. They took Pagan holidays and holidays embedded in false religion and approved them because of the popular appeal. Just look in the Bible. How many birthdays were actually celebrated and what were the end results? Many priest, pastors, fathers, etc today live like kings and are paid richly by their churches. Do you recall any apostle or disciple of Jesus that was rich from his teachings? They were rich spiritually but not materially. These men worked regular jobs and then preached. Before you give up on religion or tell every Christian to be nice (they should anyway), you should know more about the Bible and its true followers. Jesus was always and will always be nice and his followers should as well.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  12. GeorgeBos95

    Christians (or any religion) you'd be embarrassed by are not Christians, they're self-righteous bigots.

    But let's not forget that belief systems like religion aren't based in reality.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Hesavlie

      Reality? That's a subjective word. My reality very definitely includes Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Why yours doesn't is a mystery. Mine most certainly does, for which I am eternally grateful. Goodness. There are hundreds of millions of Christians world wide. What reality are you describing?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  13. Freethinker

    THANK YOU! I, too, have been astounded by the hate and vitriol spewed by so-called Christians. I was born again in 1974, and this hatemongering gets worse every year. I am never ashamed to call myself a Christian, but I am ashamed that *these* haters call themselves so. Because this is not what Christianity is about. These people are doing the devil's work.

    God gave us a brain with which to think. These people don't use them. Blind, unthinking, intolerant haters.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Hesavlie

      What church have you attended? Certainly not mine or I suspect most. Love is His highest goal. That does not include, however, moral compromise. Jesus said that the world would hate us for loving him.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • freedomliker

      A gentle reminder to you and the writer of this article. Christians are supposed to love his teachings and denounce evil.
      Perhaps these people are doing just that and it makes you uncomfortable.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • christian

      Heslavie, way to miss the points in the article about what Peter said about being hated. The "moral compromise" in your comment implies that the entire article flew right over your head.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • christian

      *Hesavlie

      February 10, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • Anagrammy

      Hesavlie... what the ?

      Is this an anagram scramble game?

      Let's try:
      H e s a v l i e

      "Havelies"
      "SealHive"
      "SlaveHie"

      (I'll leave out all the ones with "evil" in them - too easy)

      February 10, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  14. centeredpiece

    I agree that many who call themselves Christians can say hateful things. Christians aren't perfect. The problems arise because some – not all – claim to be perfect, despite clear evidence to the contrary. Interestingly, and usually quite ignored, is the fact that the "hate" flows from both extremes. I've seen just as much hatred come from commenters on the left as on the right. It's human nature to demonize the opposition. But we Christians (and other religious folks as well) ought to be making a difference. Instead of exacerbating political and societal differences, we ought to be striving to lower the heat of debate and shed more light. Some of us do try, but our culture is so divided, it's not easy. If you express a difference of opinion you are often dismissed as a hateful, terrible person bent on the annihilation of all that is good. Hopefully we can begin to introduce the concept of civil debate once again. I pray that it's possible.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Hammerdown

      I've seen just as much hatred come from commenters on the left as on the right.

      You get, what you give.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  15. arkmark

    The author is making a point about Christians acting in a more "Christian" manner and treat others who ridicule their religion with grace in order to better spread their message and maintain the moral high ground against attacks like the ones so prevalent on this thread. As one who is not immersed in faith I believe if one chooses to believe that is their choice and I will not attempt to dissuade them. If I were attacked as many on this thread are indeed attacking I would find it hard not to retaliate

    February 10, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  16. martin

    we live a very, very, very mysterious existence. the three major religions believe in a parallel invisible existence that has impact on our own. scientists believe in the same thing.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • lori degarmo

      Please explain your comment further. What 3 major religions are you referring to? What do you mean by a parallel invisible existence and what do you mean by science "believing" the same thing?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  17. roqufort

    I see an awful lot of people trying to stuff their 'beliefs' down my throat. More so than by the so called Christians.

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

      That's true politically as well. I don't hold the entire Democratic or Republican party to blame for their mean-spirited adherents who mouth hateful statements against anyone who disagrees with them. Many people try to force their beliefs on others. While it is particularly annoying when Christians do it (because we should know better) it is certainly not confined to religious people.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  18. DB

    Complaining about how difficult it is to be Christian in America is like complaining about how unfair it is that the disabled get all the best parking spaces.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:44 am |
  19. Lew

    I must admit, when I was in the Mormon church from 1975 till Sep 2011, I always thought I was better, and judged, was self righteous, now looking back at what that cult did to me, was a sad thing, being free, is a great feeling, I follow Christ words not man, never ever again.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • Oliver Cowderey

      But Mormons aren't Christian, they're Mormons. Does that make a difference?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  20. JacinJax

    As a non-Christian nothing scares me more than someone claiming to be a Christian–except someone claiming to be a Christian carrying a gun. I was raised in a Christian household and grew up traveling all over the world. My parents always encouraged theological discussions in the home and with those of other beliefs. But over the years and even more so recently, many of those claiming to be Christians are rude, hateful and threatening. One of the reasons I'm not a Christian is they can't seem to agree on anything within their own belief system. How many different denominations are there? Catholic and Protestant–Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, etc. And each of these different groups have subsets such as Southern Baptist and Lutheran Missouri Synod. The latter recently forced a Pastor to apologize for praying at the Sandy Hook inter-faith service–not sure how Jesus would have felt about that one...

    When you divide yourselves so completely it's not surprising that the Us vs. Them mentality becomes the rule not the exception. Add in the proclamation that they have a God given right to carry an assault rifle...well tell me you're a Christian and I will smile and back away slowly.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Hesavlie

      Jesus said who you should fear is the God who made you. He will judge you for your sins when you die. Your only reprieve is to believe in the atoning power of the blood of Jesus. Your enemy is Satan. Satan wants to discredit Christ and his people. Don't fall for the devil's lies. Jesus offers life abundant now and then.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • Keenen

      Well said bud, well said!

      February 10, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • Hammerdown

      +++++++++++

      Hesavlie

      Jesus said who you should fear is the God who made you. He will judge you for your sins when you die. Your only reprieve is to believe in the atoning power of the blood of Jesus. Your enemy is Satan. Satan wants to discredit Christ and his people. Don't fall for the devil's lies. Jesus offers life abundant now and then.

      ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

      Your bible tells you that you "WILL" be decieved.
      Are you sure you have been praying to the right god ?

      February 10, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
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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.