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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. Mauricio

    To All: People, please note that the responses here are many and the chances that a comment will land next to your intended recipient is slim. In normal situations the comments should address the article. However, the web moderators have been kind enough to let use it as a forum. So, if you intend to reply to another commentator, please address his or her nickname. It is best to use the reply button – i think that is the purpose of it. It has not worked for me in two occasions but this does not mean that it does not work for everyone. If it does not for any of you, you need to complain so that it can be fixed.

    July 2, 2010 at 1:37 am |
  2. Michelle

    I am a Christian, i am happy to say, But there good Religion and bad Religion. Its sad to say, but the bad ones keep you in bondage.

    July 2, 2010 at 1:28 am |
  3. Omar Leroy

    You also forgot: Christians are jerks online because they know God has no internet connection.

    July 2, 2010 at 1:25 am |
  4. Laurie

    You ought to hear the names I've been called online by "righteous Christians" for disagreeing with a passage of scripture.
    And I am a Christian.

    July 2, 2010 at 1:14 am |
  5. Ronnie Harper

    Super-naturalists are jerks, period. Talk about holding the hand that holds you down. Religion is a pox on humanity.

    July 2, 2010 at 1:12 am |
  6. Michelle

    The reason why jesus is alway depict as being white,is that Americans do not know their Geograghy.For instance, Egytians are dark skin people, they are not white. I try having a conversation once, lets just say it didn't go to well. As for Christianty, being a Christian is simple having a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus.Too often people are miss inform of what a Christian is. I really don't know how many times i have to stress this, you can not dress for it, although some churches will like you to believe so, there is no special look about it, if that's the case anyone can pretend to be a Christian. God wants our hearts and not the outward appearance.That is why legalistic Religion is such an awful thing, the lack of understanding that Jesus came and die on the cross for our sins. God doesn't need out sacrifices, he did it all, end of story. Not wearing make up, jewelry, pants or wearing your dress and skirt way below your knees, is not going to get you closer to God. You can not pay God back for what he did for you, it is impossible.

    July 2, 2010 at 1:11 am |
    • Mauricio

      Isaiah 53:2, "For He grew like a tender plant before Him, And like a root out of dry ground. He has no attracting form nor majesty that we should look upon Him, Nor beautiful appearance that we should desire Him." Hollywood never uses an actor that looks like this for the Lord. As you say, "Not wearing make up, jewelry, pants or wearing your dress and skirt way below your knees, is not going to get you closer to God." because whatever we do to please God has its origin in Satan; Cain may have done that. God wants us to enjoy Him as life and what we dress or how we dress should be the result of this life living in us; its expression. Paul said that we should not lay any other foundation than Christ. By exalting Paul, Cephas (Peter) or Apollos, the Corinthians believers were laying another foundation. Even exalting a practice such as speaking in tongues -which most of it is not even genuine – we lay another foundation. So, if anyone emphasizes not wearing make up, etc, they are laying another foundation.

      July 2, 2010 at 6:18 am |
  7. Mike Lee

    I will fiercely defend anyone's right to believe in, and follow, any religion or type of spirituality. That right, however, goes no further than the tip of ones nose. No one has a right to demand that laws reflect their particular religious beliefs, or to force others to live according to their religion's rules, but that's the agenda of the Religious Right in this country. This agenda is patently anti-American; it is much more akin to fascism.

    That being said, I don't like the disparaging remarks about a "fictional book," or the "make-believe man who lives in the sky." People who feel this way have apparently never read the Bible. There is a whole field of scholarly study of the Bible that doesn't require that anyone believe in the magic & miracles. It recognizes that the Bible was written by different groups of people at different times, some is history, some is myth, some is metaphor. Knowing this doesn't detract from the beautiful message that Christ, the philosopher & teacher, tried to convey. The wonder of the Bible isn't the divinity of Christ, but his message to love each other above everything else. It is a message of selflessness, charity and unconditional love for our fellow human beings, and it is a message that our world needs now more than ever.

    July 2, 2010 at 12:39 am |
  8. Jessica

    I think the key takeaway for this article isn't that we need to be better Christians, or better non-Christians, or that Christians are jerks so we need to stop promoting Christianity, or that non-Christians are jerks so we need to teach them how to be Christians (who aren't jerks). I think the key takeaway here is that regardless of spiritual belief...we should stop being jerks. I have a feeling the rest of it would become far less of an issue if we could get a handle on not being a jerk.

    July 2, 2010 at 12:35 am |
  9. JeromeNGA

    Short lesson. This is what God knows about you..God knows whats in your heart (I Samuel 16:7). God knows mankind cannot direct his own steps (Jeremiah 10:23) God knows mankind should not judge one another (Matthew 7:1-2). God knows mankind gives Him lip service (Matthew 15:8-9) God knows mankind will be judged by the words Jesus spoke (John 12:48) God knows you cannot love Him and the world (I John 2:15) and God knows whether you're with Him or not (Matthew 12:30). You have a choice.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:53 pm |
  10. Bill Fitzgerald

    hey me in philly, is giving gays whatever they want loving them? Should we allow people to do whatever they want to ththeir own bodies which incedentally are not really their own according to scripture. Is socialism christlike? The Savior never did for others what they could and should do for themselves.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:02 pm |
  11. Bill Fitzgerald

    Looks like time to comment. The purpose of the bible is to point us to Christ as is the Book of Mormon, which confirms the truth of the bible. The most important gift now is the gift of the Holy Ghost. The most important gift herafter is eternal life and to inherit all that the Father has, yes, that is scripture. How many times is the word christian used in the bible? three times? depends which version. Followers of Christ were called saints. The law of moses was before The Savior fulfilled the law and taght a higher law. for example While respect may be taught by the world. The Savior taught, love one another even as yourself. Another example, help one another, or the higher law, the greatest of all is the servant of all- serve continuously.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
  12. Heather

    There are jerks in every portion of the population. Some are Christian, some are not. Squeaky wheels just get noticed. I'm sure there are plenty of Christians who make every effort to be respectful and pleasant, including myself :D.

    July 1, 2010 at 9:33 pm |
  13. hornakapopolis

    If the rule is "Love your neighbor as yourself," who says they're not following it? Why assume they love themselves? I think too many these days really don't.

    July 1, 2010 at 8:56 pm |
  14. Pastor Bob

    Statistically 97% of Christians have never read the Bible cover to cover. Over 80% of Christian Pastors have never read the Bible cover to cover. I would assume then that non-Christians statistics would be even higher for ever having read the Bible cover to cover. The process to read the Bible cover to cover takes at a minimum 4 months or more and is therefore no small task.

    So the bottom line is statistically that very few of any of you commenting have a clue what you're talking about.

    Time to put aside your anger, up-bringings, computers and do some reading. If after reading the Bible cover to cover for yourself, come back and see if there is any change in your perspective.

    God Bless....

    July 1, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
  15. zach chease

    Everybody can be a jerk online sometimes... Christians, athiests, liberals, conservatives, whites, minorities, etc. So the rule of "loving one another", or simply having respect for all people, applies to everybody. It's not limited to a single faction. Respect isn't a "religious" concept, but rather a common sense one.

    July 1, 2010 at 8:25 pm |
  16. bblack

    I would like to point out a few misconceptions and assumptions make by both Non-christians and "Christians"
    The Bible is the vehicle by which The Creator is using as a record of His Existence(faith) His Plan(history) Love(grace)
    Although men wrote the words, authorship belongs to God.
    The revelation of His Existence (faith)is "The" most important and valuable gift a human being can be given, bar non, including life itself.
    Having said this , I must also say with it comes a great deal of responsibility.
    A misconception by most is believing a christian is a "Christian" simple because one states it. The often quoted scriptural passage "Lord, Lord have i not.......The Lord repies depart from Me .....I knew you not" is a testimony that there are those
    who claim they are but are not.
    What then is a Christian? A Christian is any human being chosen by God to know the revealed thruth of who He Is , what is His plan and the nature of human beings . This Revelation and Faith is given at the Baptism of the Holy Spirit , by Fire,
    not by baptism of water which is only symbolic of remission of sin. The term Born Again refers to this baptism by fire.
    Another misconception is that Christianity is a religion. The Religion of christianity is a predicted consequence of mans need to control other men. I say predicted consequences because, knowing how history repeats itself, the jewish religion is the precursor of christianity. Since the calling of Abraham to seperate himself from the known kingdoms , to the growth of the soon to be nation in slavery, in Egypt, Thru their liberation and subsequent "Born Again" experience in the desert to the conquering of the land and establishment of their own kingdom. (They were suppose to have a Theocracy but begged for a kingdom to be like everyone else) By the time the promise, The Lord Jesus Christ, came to his own they were so "Religious" they could not and did not want to accept Him . Since the fallacy of religion is proven thru biblical history , one can see why religion is not of God. No Christian is to rule or have authority over anyone except themself.
    I hope i have given a little insight into my people. There is alot more that can be said but my finger are getting numb....lol
    Peace in Love

    July 1, 2010 at 8:05 pm |
  17. Scott

    Gary, I am having a great life now. Also, the Bible is not just like any other book, but I will never convince you of that because you are not an honest doubter.

    July 1, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
    • Gary

      Scott "honest doubter" ?? not quite sure what you mean. I am an honest person that is for sure. I just dont see the diff between bible,qu ran and other religious texts and other books? honestly !

      July 2, 2010 at 10:43 am |
  18. Tempest Fujit

    Beware the arrogance that any one religion, spiritual way, tao, is the only way. A beneficent God (father) would not give us a complete manual of what to do. That would make us lazy and reliant on them. I would think an intelligent compassionate God would truly like the company of someone who can think for themselves. For this would make eternity a real heaven.

    Try and wrap your head around this. Humankind has a job. The job is for us to be aware. It is through us that the universe will become aware of itself. If it wasn't for our awareness there would be no existence. Essentially we are all the sons/daughters of a universal God. Don't take the responsibility lightly. Peace. The Universe is unfolding as it should.

    July 1, 2010 at 6:56 pm |
    • Kate

      And you have all this knowledge how? From your head? God told you?

      More likely we are all what is and nothing more. We don't have to have job, we can just be.

      July 1, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
    • Tempest Fujit

      Hi Kate.

      You can do and think what you want. It really doesn't matter if you agree or don't agree. If you were not born, would there be a universe anyway? From my perspective yes. Because I was born. From your perspective no because you were not. So it is a personal thing. And I'm not talking "Born Again Christian." You can troll/flame if you want. I'm OK with that.
      The Universe is Unfolding as it Should.

      July 1, 2010 at 7:59 pm |
  19. Kate

    Broad generalizations are always easy fodder for long forum threads.

    July 1, 2010 at 6:38 pm |
  20. Dennis

    I quess I would be considered an agnostic. I strongly believe that religion plays an important the lives of many people and I generaly do not fault them for that. What I do have a problem with is those who believe that Christianity is the only way to heaven or to God; and those who believe that Christianilty is the only valid religion in the world.

    I don't understand that way of thinking. There was a good comment in another article here on CNN, he stated that too many people are reading between the lines in the Bible and not reading the lines in the Bible. I could give you many examples – one very blatant one is the Westboro Baptist Church!!

    July 1, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
    • Kate

      Hate to tell you Dennis, but the Westboro Baptist Church site is a parody.

      July 1, 2010 at 6:40 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.