June 29th, 2010
08:20 AM ET

My Take: Why Christians are jerks online

Editor's Note: Jonathan Acuff writes the blog www.stuffchristianslike.net and recently released the book "Stuff Christians Like." In addition to commenting on Christian culture, he’s also written branding for clients such as The Home Depot, Bose, Chick-fil-A and AutoTrader.com. He lives outside of Atlanta with his wife and two young daughters. Follow him on Twitter @prodigaljohn.

By Jonathan Acuff, Special to CNN

Bono is a born again Christian.

Or he’s not.

It’s one of those two. I’m just not sure which, but I am certain that the faith of U2 is something we Christians like to argue about. That and beer. You never know if your small group is populated with prohibitionists. You have to say things like, "Is there anything you need me to bring to the dinner party, anything at all?" Then if they say, "Sure, how about a bottle of wine?" you’re good.

U2, beer, our favorite pastor’s kid-gone-wild Katy Perry: these are usually the topics I write about on www.stuffchristianslike.net. (Which is indeed a direct rip off of the site www.stuffwhitepeoplelike.com.) But today I thought I might deal with something with a little sharper teeth. Something you don’t see addressed often, but you might have experienced.

Put simply, I want to talk about why sometimes we Christians are jerks online.

Much like "Christian hate mail," being a "Jerk Christian" defies logic. We serve a loving God. We follow a Christ who very plainly told us what to do. In Matthew 22 someone asks Jesus, "What is the most important commandment?" The answer is simple:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

There’s no confusion about that. No smoke monster. No mystical wisdom that must be found on a mountain peak after growing a ZZ Top-worthy beard. Someone asks Christ what matters and the second thing is "Loving your neighbor as yourself."

So then why are there so many hateful Christian blogs? Why do Christians write bitter messages on Twitter? Why do we send hate mail?

I think there are two reasons Christians are jerks online.

  1. The business traveler approach.
  2. It’s unfortunately not that uncommon for business travelers to get in trouble when they’re on the road. With a "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" approach they tend to do things they would never do at home. "The rules don’t apply here. I’m a different person. This is 'road me,' not 'home me.'" I believe sometimes Christians approach the Internet the same way. The rules of "real life" don’t count. Sure, I have to love my neighbor, but are people on Facebook my neighbor? The Internet doesn’t "count." These are just words. Surely I can throw a missile of hate at someone on Twitter. And when we buy into this logic, we develop an unloving, anything goes, whatever happens online stays online mentality. We become two different people, "Offline Christian" and "Online Christian." And we become jerks.

  3. Room Cleaning Christianity

Why do Christians argue about drinking beer or why the tankini is the least slutty of all bathing garments? I think it’s because we sometimes practice "Room Cleaning Christianity." Think of it like college. When you’ve got a final paper due Monday, you will be amazed at how energetic your desire is to clean your room. You will scrub tile with a slow toothbrush if it means avoiding the bigger, more difficult work of writing your paper. The same thing happens with Christianity. Loving your neighbor might be simple, but it’s not easy. Maybe my neighbor is a jerk too. Maybe they hate God. Maybe they are actively and violently opposed to everything I believe. And showing them grace feels impossible. So instead of dealing with that, we get online and police people. We find small things to focus on that will distract us. I think God wants us to discuss the little stuff, but we make it an idol when we practice room cleaning Christianity at the exclusion of love. And we tend to become jerks.

Hopefully you’ve never experienced either of these things. Hopefully this article feels like Amish Romance Fiction, currently a hit amongst Christians. But if it doesn’t, if you’ve been an online jerk, if you’ve acted like I have, there’s hope.

Jesus came for the mess-ups like us. Jesus came for the failures. Jesus came for the jerks. (That’s not in the King James version of the Bible, I remixed it like Timbaland.) And the truth is, grace is the antidote to being a jerk online.

So my hope is that you won’t prove my point in the comments section. My hope is you’ll accept my apology for the times I’ve been a jerk to you online.

My hope is that I’ll see Bono in heaven, or at the bare minimum "the Edge."

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jonathan Acuff.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Jesus • Opinion

soundoff (1,722 Responses)
  1. Exploring beantown


    February 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  2. Naomi

    Well said.

    October 22, 2010 at 6:35 pm |
  3. Roedy Green

    As as early gay lib pioneer, I received over 3000 death threats from Christians and about 400,000 abusive phone calls. The #1 thing I demand of Christians is to stop their mindless hate campaign against gays, calling for our murders and beatings then absolving themselves like Pilate when some boob acts on their urgings.

    The second thing is to stop this war with science. They offer no evidence to back their nutty beliefs, but interfere not only in their own well being, but in everyone else's.

    And finally they must stop this war on the environment. They imagine a cosmic Janitor Jesus will clean up any mess we make. He never has and never will. It is up to us to preserve our planet for future generations.

    I have a very long list of complaints against Christianity. This is just the top three complaints. Christianity is beyond redemption. It has to go.

    See http://mindprod.com/religion/religion.html

    October 16, 2010 at 4:10 am |
  4. Emo

    I actually think so too=) I have been looking around the web for a while this week, and its kinda hard to find anything entertaining to read on blogs:P Maybe thats because there are too many of them around =) But your website actually keeps catching my attention=) Great posts, and cool design ^__^. Ill be sure to give it more time from now on =P

    October 9, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
  5. julie

    @ tricia: point proven with your second comment.

    And yes, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. However, I too struggle with pride and humility ...at times I'm a jerk.

    September 2, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
  6. Craig

    I don't think Christians have cornered the "hate" industry. Have you looked around lately?

    August 31, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
  7. Richard Moore

    Funny! I loved the Timbaland remix joke as well. It's pretty cool to hear someone owning up to the mistakes and sins that Christians make. Thanks for the honesty, I am also sorry also for when I have been an ungracious jerk. I will seek to be more honest as well. More polite and kind allowing the grace of Christ to shine through on my posts, comments etc. I have also championed U2 as our Christian poster boys. later to wonder if they ever wanted to be those poster boys.

    August 2, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
  8. Robin

    Jon, you almost make me wish I still believed there was a god.

    July 27, 2010 at 11:54 am |
  9. Jane Smith

    I hear you. Peace and love.

    July 24, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
  10. SoVeryConfused

    I would submit that Christians are jerks online in the exact same proportion that jerks exist in the entire online community. After all, Christians get divorces at the same rate as the general population. In fact, in most every activity of life, Christians behave as if they are simply a statistically significant sample of the community at large. So, that says to me to not waste my time worrying why Christians are jerks online. Lots of non-Christians are jerks too and probably for the same two reasons cited in the article..

    July 24, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
  11. Yeya

    a lot of the "jerk online christians" that say mean things about all other religions and non-religious people, (from all of those whose comments i've read) say mean things like they're all gonna go to hell and who knows what else. they say that because they don't know how to express God's love correctly. They think force feeding someone is going to make that someone swallow. they think the forceful approach will work better than actually showing the love that God wants us to. they either think that or just don't know how to correctly show His love. those are my thoughts on the subject. it's what i've seen in countless comments that a lot of the time, the article has nothing to do with religion anyways.

    July 23, 2010 at 11:35 am |
  12. Suzanne

    This is a very bigoted statement should be why are some so-called Christians jerks online. The true Christians are too busy helping others to spend much time online

    July 23, 2010 at 11:32 am |
    • Mrs. Taft

      So, Suzanne, you are saying you are not a true Christian?

      February 19, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Buzz

      Dear Mrs. Taft, You are probably a very nice person in "real life" and meant no harm, but please allow me to point out that Suzanne said "much" time, not "any" time. I think we should all (myself included) ask ourselves why we are so quick to pounce on a fellow human being who appears to be the least bit hypocritical. If I say "we should be kind to others" and someone notices me being unkind one day, should they jump at the chance to point out my hypocrisy? Isn't it still good to encourage one another to be kind, even if we fail to do so on occasion? So, I'll go out on a limb here – let's try to find and encourage the good in each other, rather than feeling proud to discover, and quick to point out other people's inconsistencies and failures. I may seem like a hypocrite for writing this, but I hope the message will have value apart from the messenger.

      April 1, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Mel

      Do we not all fall short of the Glory of God? Do not all of us drop our stones, for we are all plagued with sin and that is why Jesus came. I think a common misconception of Christianity in today's society is that when you become a Christian you stop sinning, and you are perfect. Gosh, no, i am a follower of Jesus and fail each day to live up to His standards. So, each day i need to go to Jesus and ask for his love and grace again that day. Just because someone falls and sins on the internet or in real life, isn't to say they are not a Christian, its just to say they are human, and broken and in need of a saviour as we all are.

      April 17, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • jimtanker

      I'm not plagued by sin. I dont believe in sin. Sin is made up garbage by xtians to make people think that they need something that they dont, salvation. And then they sell you that salvation. What a scam.

      April 17, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Mel

      Jimtanker, if that is true, that sin doesn't exist and i and this world is how it is meant to be, i am sad. I am a horrible person. I do some crappy things in my life, and this world sucks. People die, get sick, don't have money for food, no clean water, people get divorced, people are just downright mean. If that is how the world is supposed to be, then get me out. What is the point of living in this crappy place and dealing with these crappy things. I know i suck as a person, and i am so glad that there is someone to rescue me, or this life is pointless. That is what makes living worthwhile. Having the love and peace and joy of God and knowing all that is wrong in the world and in my will finally go away, in eternity, is what makes this life awesome for me, and i will try my best to live that way.

      April 17, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  13. ArthurDental

    Why are Christians jerks online?
    Because they're jerks offline.


    July 15, 2010 at 11:18 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.