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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. Anon

    A lot of Christians are jerks online because they're jerks offline. Simple as that. And the bit about "maybe your neighbor hates God" sounds a whole lot like "maybe your neighbor hates America" if his political views happen to be different from yours. I know a lot of athiests. I don't know anybody who "hates God."

    June 30, 2010 at 7:45 am |
  2. RodBfromNC

    Please stop quoting bible. No where in the bible does it say "advantage" of a "Specific" religious group.

    Just because Maddoff screwed his Jewish friends doesn't mean that Christians should do the same.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:43 am |
  3. RodBfromNC

    Sorry, but all of the Fish Christians do this thing. Estimate and the the old "God said thru prayer, it costs 50% more" Many of these "so called Christians are there just to screw with believers".

    June 30, 2010 at 7:40 am |
  4. Gloria

    In the last generation men will be proud and boastful, lovers of themselves and pleasure rather than lovers of God and that children will be disobedient. 2 Tim. 3:1-5

    First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.
    They will say, "Where is this `coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." 2 Peter 3:3-4

    June 30, 2010 at 7:37 am |
  5. K

    "Insofar as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12

    June 30, 2010 at 7:34 am |
  6. Timme62

    Overbearing Christians are one of the main reasons that I do not believe in organized religion. While I respect your religious beliefs, I ask in return that your respect mine and not try to ram your holier than thou lifestyle down my throat. Don't tell me that I am going to hell because I don't go to church, don't condemn me to eternal damnation because I think a different way than you. There is only one that will sit in judgement of me when my time comes.....and it ain't you!

    June 30, 2010 at 7:30 am |
    • Ymiri

      Religions in the end merely separate us apart. They make you different than me and just like anything else in the world, it creates "sides". But I really think good people are good no matter their beliefs. 99.9% of people who state they belong to one religion or another (this statistic is my own by the way but I can't see it being wrong) are born into their religion. It has been taught to them since they were born and they have been molded into believing that they are right and everyone else is wrong.
      So, if you are born into a christian family: muslims, jews, athiests, hindu, etc. are ALLLLL wrong. And it goes for every other religion as well. Why? Because you were born into it. Nothing more, nothing less.
      Osama bin Laden is Fred Phelps if he was born in the middle east. We should all open our minds.

      June 30, 2010 at 7:43 am |
  7. Natacha

    Words of wisdom Mark! Keep it up! Let's pray for each other, so that we can be obeedient to our God at all times. We must because 'He said if we love Him we will do what He commands!'
    God mercy and blessings be upon all of us in a time like this.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:28 am |
  8. Ymiri

    What irritates me about western "Christians":
    My mother and father, one Christian and one Muslim were married during a civil war between the two in my country. I believe I was blessed to be raised in both worlds, with much more weight on the Christian side.
    However, what really gets me, here, in Western society is the ignorance to the word "Allah". This just means God. It does not in any way mean a "Muslim" god. Christians back home and in any arabic speaking country say Allah.
    That being said, if you are debating whether Christians are being "jerks" online as the author states, hop over to Fox news and you will see some insane thoughts and utter hatred.
    But, again I have seen just as bad and worse in Muslims growing up. And I am sure the jews are no better. So, bottom line? There are good people and bad people among all of us. No matter the religion or faith.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:26 am |
  9. Leisa

    Hypocrites are not just found in Christianity, they are found in the human race period. Which one of us at one time or another has not professed to be something we are not? Ever told your children not to do something that you do yourself? Ever criticized someone for something you have done yourself? Just something to consider before anyone goes using the age old excuse about Christians being hypocrites. When we answer to Christ in the Judgment Day (everyone will), He will not ask us what our neighbor did; He will ask us what we did with the knowledge of Him.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:18 am |
  10. jamesbrummel

    Gee, how about some people like pointing fingers at the faults of others to deflect scrutiny of their own, Christian or otherwise?

    June 30, 2010 at 7:17 am |
  11. fred

    and what does "being a christian" mean? I believe with all my heart that Jesus died for my sin. I believe that he is the only way to heaven. I pray to God in my times of need and guidance and even to just say "Hi God, it's me Fred". Yeah, All that stuff. I'm also pro-choice, against the death penalty, I think Gay men and women should marry whoever they want. I believe the word of god was given to us in the bible to be used as a tool for our daily lives, but to be taken into interpretation on how it applies to us as individuals and not Christians as a whole. We were all made into different and wonderful people in his image. One bible verse and turn a switch in someones head one way and a different one in the next guy. But the commandment Love your neighbor is universal. There is no need to argument or bickering. Live and let live, and enjoy each others presence in the afterlife.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:15 am |
    • T. Question

      Well in my view Christian is part being kind and loving they neighbour. The big part is also keeping the commandments. Following the rules of your faith is paramount if you want others to follow you. I can respect a man who tells me you know I don't believe as you do therefore I cannot follow your faith versus the man who says I know the faith says this but I will do it my way the hell with being truth to the faith I profess to follow.

      June 30, 2010 at 7:24 am |
  12. ron

    nice to see honest from a righty for a change. the tea baggers are the most dangerous group killing the usa now days. they think it's ok to impose by law there bs no matter what. they overlook the job of the court it to protect the few from the many. they also use cash from corps that don't mind destroying ..well everything, to get profit. and right now our top court is not helping the folks alive,but corps profits are first over law. gore vs bush proves that court is broken, we need to clean it up...fast

    June 30, 2010 at 7:12 am |
  13. Mauricio

    There are many crafty Christians out there who want to keep their old religion even if it is not God's ordained way of worship. You will be surprised at the craftiness they resort to. Lately a so called Pastor was under attack because instead of preaching Christ he was preaching his own inventions. When shown that His way of worship was not according to God, instead of repenting guess what they chose to do! He slandered the one who corrected him as proud for the mere reason that he knew more than him and demanded that one to repent misquoting a verse from the scripture. When that one did not submit to his allegation the paper where he was commenting banned this one from posting the truth. Instead the paper chose a commentator according to their natural preference who tried to supplant him but did not have an accurate knowledge of the truth. This is the works of the Nicolaitans which the Lord hates which is today's Christendom clergy-laity. This clergy-laity system annuls the function of the body. Prophesying which is speaking on behalf of God in the new testament and includes preaching is something the whole church should do and not just some clergy or someone chosen by the clergy. I was appalled to see how this Christians in this newspaper selected their own preacher based on preference and that one they chose was not even speaking the truth accurately. This Nicolaitanism which is from Satan not only anuls the function of the body; it even interferes with others receiving an accurate knowledge of the truth! There was one comentator in this newspaper who was confused about the rapture, The one who had the answer and could clear his confusion but was not part of the clergy the newspaper will not post his answer probably to protect the clergy -which is a system of Satan – but the one who was trying to suplant the one who had the answer – most likely he was part of the clergy – they posted it!, even when what he posted was heresy! They will not care that a heresy was being preached as long as they keep their clergy-laity system which is fom Satan! No wonder the Lord hates the works of these Nicolaitans!

    June 30, 2010 at 7:10 am |
  14. RickyL

    WOW...look at the comment numbers. Is anyone working these days?

    June 30, 2010 at 7:08 am |
  15. Tena

    Anyone can call them-self a Christian but actions speak louder than words. As Christians, we are called to love God, ourselves and others. There is hypocrisy and corruption everywhere, not just in Christianity.
    Why was the "CNN Faith Blog" developed? Most articles in it, are anti-Christian and every blog seems to become an Atheism verses Christianity debate. Some Christians AND some Atheists have acted like jerks, in these blogs. I see the article about Christian jerks but I don't see one about Atheist jerks.
    In our country, freedom OF religion, is becoming freedom FROM religion and many Atheists seem to believe that one way to facilitate that, is to "ridicule the faithful, while attempting to transition the very faith itself, into a core element" – "social justice".
    Christian faith will not die.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:05 am |
    • T. Question

      AMEN there is no balance. I never seen them saying anything negative about Atheist. Maybe we should start a Race to Balance Fund. We could pay CNN a big reward if they show one story just one and only one critical of Atheist. I know and if gold could rain from the sky their would be no poverty but yeah I had to try.

      June 30, 2010 at 7:18 am |
  16. eaglelion

    Greetings –

    Thank you, Jonathan for your thougt-provoking article. Indeed it helped me.

    True worshippers of GOD can love the hell out of people.

    "Whosoever will" shall accept GOD as Father, Jesus as Savior and Lord, and the Holy Spirit as Counseler and Comforter.
    GOD is real and complete truth. For those who do not believe the truth – it is truth, regardless.

    The Holy Bible informs that those who do the will of GOD shall enter heaven and enjoy everlasting peace and joy....
    GOD teaches through many ways. His will is found in the Holy Bible – it is a life manual that has answers for all affairs in life.

    May GOD help us all....

    June 30, 2010 at 6:58 am |
  17. Matthew

    All of you people are idiots. Why is being a jerk a surprise? Wake up. your god has died – time to be real. Be good because it is the right thing to do – not because your dead god says so.

    June 30, 2010 at 6:57 am |
  18. DM

    I've always felt that people that act like jerks online aren't becoming something different, they're just expressing who they really are in their heart. What better way to find out who someone is at their core then to give them the opportunity to act (mostly) anonymously and without repurcussion.

    June 30, 2010 at 6:55 am |
  19. DN3

    I must say that this is an interesting article. While I don't think most Christians are hateful online, I do believe that many are very judgemental but I think this is just a trait of the human race in general. My personal theory is that the reason many born-again Christians are somewhat extreme is simply because it gives them a sense of purpose in life and makes them feel self-important. It's probably a reaction to their lack of self-esteem which caused them problems in the first place. I've learned that just because one goes to church every Sunday doesn't necessarily make them a good person, never mind Christian! At the same time, many good people DO go to church.

    People just love to criticize because it makes them seem more smart, better, whatever. Maybe they like to laugh at other 'dumb' people. I've been guilty of it myself and I try to think before I type but it doesn't always work! Mind you at the end of the day, I try my best to eat crow gracefully or to do something constructive with the egg on my face 🙂

    June 30, 2010 at 6:54 am |
  20. fiftysomething

    I get the feeling that all so called christians are fakes and only proclaim their faith to get an edge in life. This explains the "when in Vegas" mentality. Physics prove that most christian beliefs are impossible.

    June 30, 2010 at 6:51 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.