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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. Eyes Wide Open

    If you believe that God is all-powerful, why believe in a world where only 10-20% are going to heaven? Could God not simply wish all this pain and suffering away and do away with Hell in the blink of an eye? In the Bible, he's at odds with Satan, but could he not just remove evil anytime he wants? Why worship one who makes rules where most people will lose. If there were five babies in a burning building, would you not save them all if it were in your power?

    I was raised Christian, but opened by eyes when I could not subscribe to the idea that others in the world who do their best, follow the advice and practices of their parents and loved ones, live a life in service to others, etc...will burn for all eternity just because they don't believe as I do. How can this be right?

    While I'm not necessarily an athiest, I believe it's impossible to know anything about the Creator. To me, spirituality is an inward journey where we reconcile our accounts with ourselves. It's not about putting on nice clothes and going to a social gathering to talk about and judge other people. It's not about what's on the outside, it's really about what's in your heart. Think about that.

    June 29, 2010 at 11:14 pm |
    • LaJollaRich

      According to the 'good book', G-D created Satan. Christians forget that part.

      According to the 'good book', G-D created a forbidden tree in the middle of paradise that was not be touched. Christians forget that part.

      Message: The world we live in is both good and evil. It is what it is.

      June 29, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
  2. LaJollaRich

    I'll be fair and say...Jesus' message is different from modern-day Christians. Christians lost the man's message a long time ago.

    June 29, 2010 at 11:12 pm |
  3. Ryan B.

    I mean that really SUCKED!!!

    June 29, 2010 at 11:12 pm |
  4. MamaKas

    I find organized religion arrogant and intolerant in general.

    June 29, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
    • Gary

      Mamakas that is the phat truth.

      June 29, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
  5. Ryan B.

    my brother, i dont think our Lord Jesus is pleased with this video at all. Firstly He would be bored by the ridiculously long intro, then He would be apalled at the profanity and nastiness of the video. You sir have FAILED!!!

    June 29, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  6. Sapient

    All one has to do is view the comments left by self-professed Christians regarding any news story about gay rights. The seething, venomous hatred is absolutely palpable. This is not simply "defending the faith," as I have often heard given as an excuse. Rather, it is hand-picking certain bible verses in order to justify hypocritical loathing, intolerance and bigotry. It is vile, abject hatred at it's most base, blasted at the perceived offender with the force of a nuclear warhead, and all simply because of some sociopathic need to feel superior to those who are different or do not share their beliefs. And what would Jesus do? What would Jesus think of all of this hatred thrown about in his name? I fully realize not all Christians are filled with hate. I know Christians who are wonderful people, filled with love, compassion and tolerance, because they choose to 'walk the walk' and do their best to truly live their lives as Jesus taught—to love one another and not judge, lest ye be judged. Unfortunately, Jesus is not for everyone. Some people cannot be trusted with Jesus, just as meth and heroin addicts cannot be trusted to give up abusing the drug they so desperately need to escape from reality. It is rather unfortunate that those who proclaim to follow his teachings use something so innocuous as Jesus to justify bigotry, intolerance and hatred.

    June 29, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
  7. HeIsGod

    If I need to be insulted or even killed for the sake of Christ, so be it! I will stand on God's Word regardless of what anyone thinks, say, or do. I will not speak my word, my truth, my power because I don't have one. It is all about Christ Jesus and what He did on the Cross of Calvary! It's about what saith the LORD, His Right, His Truth, and His Power.

    Many unbelievers think that we use the Word of God to bring hate towards them and that God hates them, which is a lie, when in fact, what is really happening is this:
    HEBREW 4:12
    For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

    June 29, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
    • Gary

      HelsGod, You seem devout and knowledgable in Christianity and the bible. Despite being agnostic I enjoy reading it from time to time. Matthew who's real name was changed by King James. is incredible. blessed are those who show mercy for they will inherit the earth and blessed are the meek.

      June 29, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
  8. Gary

    As a peaceful,conservative American loving Agnostic I realize I need to respect other peoples faiths. I understand that many religious folks are very true to their beliefs. I just get very offended especially when certain muslims and christians tell you with a smile on their face that if I dont "believe" in their God I will go to hell.

    June 29, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      I am a Christian. It means I have chosen to follow Jesus. It also means that I accept that I do not judge people. I may offer suggestions based on my experience; but, I believe it is God who makes the decisions not me.

      June 29, 2010 at 11:08 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      @ Gary – I don't know if they say it directly like that and if they do, it is not the place to tell you or anyone. Even when the Word of God claims that it is true, we have to Preach The Gospel of the Good News to those that are spiritually lost, for the salvation of their soul. God doesn't send anyone to hell, one makes that choice to go. He has already made a way of escape of eternal damnation, but, sadly, many will not escape from it, its a choice one makes. God will judge us according to our deeds here on earth.

      MATTHEW 7:13,14 – "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and MANY enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a FEW find it."

      June 29, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
  9. Ryan B.

    i think the real problem is that christianity has way too many posers. its as simple as that! I love Jesus, not religion!

    June 29, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
    • Gary

      Ryan I see your point. I think Televangelists jack asses have turned more folks away from not only Christianity but religion period

      June 29, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
  10. S. W. Guinn

    This is a good example why Christ died for the whole world. We ALL can be jerks at one time or other – it doesn't matter if you are Christian, Atheist, Islamic, Hindu, Pagan. We all do wrong things any time, anywhere!

    June 29, 2010 at 10:59 pm |
    • Gary

      Good Point Guinn.

      June 29, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
    • A. Young

      Yes Guinn, you get my vote as well. And the voice that screams "FAIL" at Christians who don't walk on water is just as distressing as the Christians that scream "DOOMED" to those who don't buy their particular brand. My pastor said once "If anyone tells you Christians are hypocrites just invite them to church with you and tell them there's always room for one more!"

      June 29, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
  11. Jarren

    I'm pretty sure this is been restated plenty of times, but I find that atheists are as much jerks as Christians. Whereas I feel like Christians are more on the defensive, atheists/agnostics are more on the offensive (Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris would be great examples). Obviously I'm excluding idiots such as the people at Westboro Baptist, but for the most part, I find that Christians are the ones being attacked more often then others.

    But I really think a sense of self-criticism and a willingness to look at our beliefs more closely on both sides is really needed if there is going to be some real and sincere dialogue.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:53 pm |
    • streetcar01

      I disagree in that I see that atheists are attacking the beliefs and ideals fronted by Christians, not the people themselves. Then I see the Christians taking offense and blasting the atheists, not their beliefs and ideas.

      June 29, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
    • Gary

      religion really turns my stomac. Benny hinn,Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert,Oral Roberts,Osama bin ladin, Anrea Yates,Jim Jones,David Koresh, to name a few good reasons.

      June 29, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
  12. streetcar01

    I just read the 10 commandments. The first two the author says are the most important... They are not there.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
    • checkitout

      check the new testiment (can't remember where right now), the ten commandments are in the old testiment. Hope this helps...

      June 29, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
    • LaJollaRich

      The 10 commandments are in the OT. Read it again. Christians are ignorant about the 'good book', quite often. Its annoying, especially since they're always on a high-horse. Read the darn book for crying out loud. Then you might think differently.

      June 29, 2010 at 11:10 pm |
    • lurker77

      streetcar01, the commandments the author are referring to can be found in Matthew 22 verses.34 – 40. The religious experts of the day asked Jesus which is the greatest commandment. Jesus answered with two quotes from the Old Testament. The greatest commandment is "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is from Deuteronomy 6:5. The second commandment is "Love your neighbor as yourself," which comes from Leviticus 19:18. Jesus said, "All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments," meaning that all of the other commandments (including the 10 Commandments) are an extension of trying to follow these two guiding principles.

      June 29, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
    • A. Young

      The first 2 commandments are to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and strength" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." I firmly believe if people who WANT to seek God sincerely study and aspire to the first one the rest falls into place IN TIME, (and NO ONE does it perfectly) , and they have the key to opening the life they were truly meant to live. And I also want to say if people struggle to succeed much with the second commandment NOT TO WORRY After all.. most of us have been hurt by WHO? Other people.

      June 29, 2010 at 11:59 pm |
  13. Dancer2010

    You know, frankly, I find a lot of Christians pretty frightening. I'm not one. I'm a Jew. As an American Jew, I've always lived as a minority faith person surrounded by Christians. You guys are pretty intimidating a lot of the time. Do you hear what I am saying to you? The side of your faith you show people most often is NOT the kind, loving, Christ-like side. That comes through very, very rarely. Most of the time, we non-Christians get this full-on, nasty, judgmental, and often cruel Angry Righteous Christian thing thrown in our faces. It's really unpleasant and sometimes it makes you fear for your life, because it seems to come from such a hateful and self-righteous place. This article's only problem is that it assumes that this jerkiness is mainly online and the exception to the rule. I think loving Christians are the exception, which is terribly sad. But not unexpected. Your faith asks you to be gentle, turn the other cheek, be humble, and give of yourself more than you take. That's a tall order.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      Claiming that one is a Christian does not mean one follows Jesus' teachings.

      The fact is all three Abrahamic religions are filled with members who hold membership more as a social club than as a basis for guiding personal behavior. Sadly it is the more abusive of us who make the most noise and the majority in all groups who tend to be too passive in regard to this.

      June 29, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
    • LaJollaRich

      You should be frightened. Their god is mean. They're mean. They'll kill you over this mess. They've done it for millenia and they won't quit.

      June 29, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
    • A. Young to Dancer2010

      Your post made me smile. I am Christian and my longest bestest pal is Jewish. Both of us got flamed when we were kids.. she by a born again (you know the type.. " get saved rot in hell..") and myself by a Baptist ("your water baptism wasn't good enough, you gotta get up at the front of MY church and tell everyone Jesus is your Savior." We both were traumatized by that and as a kid who loved God and was recently baptized I sorrowfully apologized to God for not being good enough and accepted my fate.
      The good news.. I got over that totally as I got older and wiser to bad religion. ON a cuter note... my pal and I combined our faiths and created "Chraunukkah" full with hand made paper mache uniquely shaped "Stocking" and played the Dreidel. 40 years later, my iPod is filled with Christmas AND Hanukkah music, by her 🙂 Peace!

      June 30, 2010 at 12:13 am |
  14. Flame War Lord

    People just want to be "right"... and after a 2000year argument that has left no one correct or truly justified i'd get a little frustrated too... I might maybe even take it out on some chat room

    Religeous or not, let go of the neeeeed to be right.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
  15. Dan

    I think most of us are less inhibited when we are online and anonymous. We write things that we are afraid to say in person. But, I think we (I) should be more careful to write as if we knew the recipient personally. I'll try to be more careful in the future.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
  16. HeIsGod

    LaJollaRich – You commented:
    The jewish community doesn't believe jesus is The Christ – they're still waiting for him and they wrote the 'good book'. That should be a huge hint right there.

    So get off your high-horse and stop typing all that dribble.

    My comment to you:

    This Jews are going to waiting for a long time. Why, because the Messiah has already come, they have rejected the Son of God and also, have been blinded by Satan. If one has never had a spiritual experience with Christ, it is easy to side with unbelievers.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      I have a silly notion that it is important to clean my own home before I suggest others clean theirs. I have a long list of faults. I just think we miss our mission when we seek to play the we vs they approach. They are us. Our sins are no less than anyone else. Our ability to be dismissive and rude is no less. We need to focus on the example we make. That is by far more persuasive. It does not matter that Jews and Samaritans did not get along well.. what mattered was one Samaritan did what others did not. It was his example.

      June 29, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
    • LaJollaRich

      Now he's the Son of G-D? Thought jesus was god. Isn't that your claim to righteousness? Which one is it?

      June 29, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      @ LaJollaRich – There is the Trinity, ever heard of it? God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit. They are ONE, and inseparable. The only way to know this is that we have to surrender our hearts to God and He will give you revelation that will blow your mind. Read JOHN – Chapter 1., it will give you more information.

      June 29, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
  17. GaGirl

    Hurting people hurt people!!!! Christians and all a like. Carrying anger, bitterness, unforgivness and they go around exploding on others with their emotions. If we all didn't measure everyone to ours what a world we could live in. If we can revolutionize the word "LOVE". What a radical world this would be.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      It is very easy to select a side then blindly attack all whom are on the "other" side. We have a tendency to fear those who are different and as such we are far too forgiving of those who are similar when they are abusive and far too vindictive when we see those who are different just question us. It does not matter what religion, race, culture, etc... it seems to be human nature.

      June 29, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  18. A man after God's Heart

    Most of the first generation Christian's are Jewish. Also, Ive attached a scripture from the Old Testament, who do you think Zechariah is talking about?

    Zechariah 12:10b
    They will look on [b] me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
  19. outoftownie

    I'd like to add to the list of reasons why Christians can be jerks, (and perhaps someone already said this.)

    The Self-Righteous Christian. "I'm going to heaven and you're not, so your opinion doesn't mean squat."

    There is absolutely no reasoning with such people. Big part of the reason why I get upset with my fellow Christians

    June 29, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Are you sure this is what they are saying? Or are they proclaiming the Word of God with a scripture and is this the message you interpret?

      June 29, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
    • outoftownie

      Case in point.

      June 29, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
  20. James

    No matter how hateful Christians can be online, the Flying Spaghetti Monster forgives them.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      LOL...YOU ARE FUNNY!! Jesus Christ forgives Atheist too as well as He does us.

      June 29, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
    • Damiana

      Ramen!

      June 29, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
    • LaJollaRich

      SpaghettiO god is alive and kickin.

      June 29, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
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