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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. Mark from Middle River

    Answer: "Where there is peace and harmony, a .... moment can not exist."

    July 4, 2010 at 2:00 am |
  2. Samuel

    Christianity is a very profitable business that has nothing to do with actually being a Christian. Jesus taught us true Christianity was about sacrifice and putting others ahead of ourselves. The apostles preached God’s word at risk of their lives and were persecuted by political powers. Today’s "Apostles" or church leaders are professionals that often occupy positions of political influence and conduct themselves within strict guidelines lest they lose their tax-exempt status. True Christians don’t depend on a church. They depend on their heart and they are not jerks,. They will give you their coat.

    July 4, 2010 at 1:54 am |
  3. Gary

    HelsGod, You are Mexican correct? Just curious what your opinion is on illlegal immigration and the Arizona laws. I live here in Texas. I think something big is going to go down between U.S.A and Mexico. I think we will eventually put soldiers and parts of the boarder. I feel bad for attacking your beliefs. I am not going to respond with any negative posts regarding your faith. Your are prob alot lke my father a devout christian who just wants to tell others his faith. Have a safe 4th!

    July 3, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Well, good to know that we are neighbors! LOL, yes, I am Mexican and I hate to see that things are going bad for both USA and Mexico. I love Mexican, really, because not all of them are mean. I know that the law is the law and at first, I was against AZ, but than my husband, being from MX said that it's not right for them to keep coming here illegally and that is true. Also, when I see all those post that are being made against them, I get upset and I start to hate AZ law, but don't get me wrong, it's just my emotions.

      Thank you so much for your respect, I appreciate it. God bless you and have a safe happy 4th of July, friend!!!

      July 3, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
  4. Gary

    Helsgod, I stand corrected. I have no idea if you have ever met God. If you have I am happy for you and somewhat envious. If these men who wrote the bible saw God,walked with God,talked to God,learned of God ect than of course they are going to believe in God. Unless they are idiots. I would believe whole heartedly if I saw,walked,talked with God. When you did you meet him may I ask? Next time you see or talk to him tell him I say hello and would like to meet him too. .........Dont respond by telling me to pray or read some religious text either. But in the meantime I am sincerely enjoying this shipwreck of a life.

    July 3, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      THANK YOU, HOW SWEET OF YOU! Don't worry, I won't tell you what you don't want to say! As a Christian, I know what it's like to be in a shipwreck, and I sure hate it!! LOL!!

      July 3, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      I met God at my old 1 bedroom apartment more than 15 years ago.

      July 4, 2010 at 12:05 am |
  5. ionhelen

    Sweet merciful baby-egg Raptor Jesus, don't I know it. Just a few minutes ago I had to bite back the impulse to be a Christian jerk when a friend of mine, after I'd posted a reply in which I mentioned the whole love of money = evil thing, replied with asking how money was the root of all evil. BLARGH. Way to conveniently skip over a word there bucko. It's so easy to just thrash someone digitally when you feel you've taken a little more time to think about things than they have. I believe you're right; they're our neighbors, probably moreso than the guy next door.

    Heck, at least I know this internet friends' name. I'm not so sure about the guy next door though.

    July 3, 2010 at 11:33 pm |
  6. David

    HelsGod why do you even bother, you seem to be what this story is about

    July 3, 2010 at 11:33 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Well, friend, you don't stay to far behind either. : – )

      July 3, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  7. MamaKas

    You people are still going on this? It just proves my belief, organized religion = Mass Insanity

    July 3, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
  8. Jason

    EVERYONE is a jerk online because there are no consequences. That's all.

    July 3, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
  9. Gary

    HelsGod I dont think you have been brainwashed. I think you have made a descision based on the bible teachings and what you have heard @ church and perhaps communicating with other church members and devout family members. That being said your faith is based on religious texts wriiten by men for men. or sermons from preachers reading from a book written 2001 years ago. You have faith in a God without ever meeting or seeing him. You correlate earthly texts and other humans preachings and testijmonies with knowing God exists or who he actually is .

    July 3, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      How do you know I never met Him? Or that I don't have a testimony of my own? I speak not only because I read the Bible, but because I have so much to share about what I have experience with God. So, go ahead and say that I am brainwashed, at least I am not spiritually dead or lost, but I am alive in Christ Jesus!

      Also, these men that you said wrote the Bible, are men that saw God, talked, walked, learned of God, and traveled with God. So with that being said, how can you disprove what they have seen and experience with God? What makes you think that God will stop allowing us to have the same experience with Him as these men? God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, He changes not.

      :- )

      July 3, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
  10. Amy

    I'm an atheist and I am a jerk online. Sometimes i'm nice too. Gotta love these articles that try to pit people against each other.

    July 3, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
  11. zann

    Here's a thought. Some people just like to stir things up – no matter what their religion. They think its fun to upset people. They really don't care about the topic being discussed, they only want to get a reaction from others.

    I have been reading a library book called "The Sociopath Next Door". Fascinating stuff. The author claims that 1 in 25 people are sociopaths. From the profile she gives, online "trolls" may well be sociopaths. For them, getting people riled is just a game. They have no real emotions, and her theory is that all they are left with is to see life as a game, and the only thing they really enjoy is winning the game. It's really sad – imagine never being able to experience love! It has given me a whole new perspective on why some people are so mean. 1 in 25 people – that can cause a lot of nastiness, but it is easier to ignore when you realize how empty they are inside.

    July 3, 2010 at 8:52 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Thank you for sharing your comment, it will help me in the future to ignore these sociopath people. Have a great weekend!

      July 3, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
  12. David

    You have isolated your self with your ego

    July 3, 2010 at 8:35 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      How is that? Just because you can't convince me that I am brainwashed, I've isolated myself with my ego? I have no pride, that is a sin.

      July 3, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
  13. David

    HelsGod i have made my point you are telling me and others what they are when you don't know....because you don't truly listen as I said it is because you have this enormously huge brainwashed ego and you prefer to stomp on people with the bible instead of showing respect that someone besides you might have faith that doesn't agree with yours....is that too much to ask for respect? you don't converse with people....you hit them with the bible that you feels backs up your ego and gives you the right. The bible can be read and interpreted by anyone....you do not have exclusive rights.....what is so hard for you to understand?

    July 3, 2010 at 8:21 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      David, I can less if you believe in God or have the faith that doesn't agree with mine. Oh David, you are not listening either. You also are telling me and others what they are when you don't know as well! Wow, calling me and others that we are brainwashed, is that respecting me as well? If you don't agree with what I quote, so be it. As the bible as read and interpreted by anyone, I do have exclusive rights to vote my voice as what I have interpret according to the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit. I don't understand why you get upset about it. I can't force to believe and you will surely not convince me with your comments. It is what it is, oh well, life goes on, with or without each other.

      July 3, 2010 at 8:32 pm |
  14. David

    who said I am an atheist? I am not. You are brainwashed and cannot think outside your egotistical mind HelsGod

    July 3, 2010 at 8:00 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Well, David, you talk like one, think like one, and act like one....so what do you expect for me to think? Are you an Agnostic?

      July 3, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
  15. john

    Jesus – at the last supper – told his followers, love each other- he didn't say, only fellow jews or soon to be christians- but to love each other- Everyone.. I'm sure he didnt want people to fight over beliefs or rituals. take care each other, that is what Jesus ministry was about. Ramming the gospel down a persons mouth is not a way to preach the gospel of christ. Some christians are hiped about their faith, that is excellent. There are other ways to display the faith of christ and may in time appeal to a person who never believed- may become a believer.- I understand this because I wasn't always a follower of Christ.

    July 3, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
  16. David

    HeIsGod

    Also, if the Box is full of evidence of God's existence, would you open it to search for evidence? That is why God provided the Bible for us to open it up and search His Word to get all the evidence that we need. The bible was not written for unbelievers or to make believers, it is sealed and only believers are able to understand it and know God.

    It is so egotistical to think man can write a book and say it comes from god.....from that point of view all comes from God....personally I believe the big bang theory sounds pretty solid from what we know so far. If it is true than we all come from the same God....but what we choose to do and believe he has left to our own demise. Jews, Christians and Muslims are all of the same faith root.....and now suffocated into fighting over what? The same God? Yes for man to invent a God is insane, Lets get smarter and save our planet, our humanity and each other. Amen!

    July 3, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Okay, so what caused the big bang?

      Jews are still waiting for the Messiah and don't believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, so they sure missed out on the Messiah when He was crucified on the Cross of Calvary.

      Muslims sees Jesus Christ as just a prophet and not the Son of God who is also God Himself.

      Christians believe in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, being God Himself. We believe that it is only through Christ that mankind can be saved.

      So, no, we are not rooted by the same faith, much less in belief.

      The Jews and Christians believe in the same God of the Old Testament. Jews reject and don't believe in the New Testament.

      Muslims believe in Allah, we don't.

      Satan, being crafty, has accomplished to bring confusion by convincing many that there are other gods when there is only One God of Israel.

      July 3, 2010 at 7:27 pm |
    • David

      HelsGod I call that utterly egotistical nonsense. You have convictions I see that. I just find it morally bankrupt to think so little of other human beings. I find your comments insulting and inflammatory. Having said such I also think you are part of the problem not the solution. For you to try and use your religious beliefs as a weapon is totally inhumane, sort of like Moses coming down from sanai with a tablet of commandments...the first which said...thou shall not kill....and immediately slaughtering thousands of his non-believing congregation. Im sure you will tell me it was God;s will :)))))))) and not some controlling egotistical devilish hypocrisy at work....i love how I can see it but you cant. I simply believe that you are brainwashed. I do know we on earth have some enormous problems to overcome and I do not see your words as helping to solve them only to cause friction....but God has his miraculous work to do through you somehow doesn't he....I mean the important part is that you believe.....right?

      July 3, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      @ David – In your very eyes, I am brain-washed! LOL, does that proves your evidence? No, it doesn't. One can lead an atheist to evidence but you can't make him think

      I want to share this with you and let you go until another day, friend.

      The issue isn’t the existence of God. If the atheist is wrong and there is a Creator, then he was wrong. He gambled and he lost; no big deal. The real gamble is that there’s no hell. That’s what makes the player sweat, just a little. “What if?” is the deep and nagging doubt. He believes it’s worth the excitement of the game. Yet atheism isn’t a mind game; it is intellectual suicide.

      It’s been said, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” That maxim is true. If there is no thirst, the horse won’t drink. However, you can “salt his oats” to increase his thirst.

      Even though the atheist lives every day with the evidence of creation right under his nose, that’s often not enough to make him thirst for the truth. He needs something else to give him a thirst he never thought he would have—a thirst for the God he once denied. In You Can Lead an Atheist, evangelist Ray Comfort presents in a lively question-and-answer format portions of conversations he has had with atheists on his blog, Atheist Central. Ray answers such questions as:

      Is there real evidence for the existence of God?
      If God is in control, why then is there suffering and death?
      Is there any evidence for life after death?
      What is the purpose of human existence?
      The staunch atheists Ray encounters on his blog often have the zeal of religious fanatics. They are fundamentalist in their belief that there is no God—and, armed with basic Richard Dawkins phrases, they are spoiling for a fight. They are often unreasonable, angry, and bitter at God, and color their speech with blasphemy against His name, despite professing that God doesn’t exist. They don’t see the illogic in professing hatred for something that doesn’t exist—their hatred proves that, deep down, they do know that God exists. They just need empirical evidence before they’ll admit it.

      Within this book is not just empirical evidence for the existence of God, but the reasons why atheists in particular desperately need His forgiveness.

      Join best-selling author Ray Comfort as he “talks to the atheists,” revealing not just the weakness of the atheist argument but the solid foundation upon which the Christian stands.

      When an atheist understands the impossibility of his belief that nothing made everything, he often defaults to the belief that the universal is eternal. But that won’t work. It’s a scientific impossibility. The Law of Thermodynamics proves that the universe cannot be eternal. Everything material runs down in time (even the sun will wear out). Leave a rock for a billion years and it will crumble to dust.

      If the universe was eternal, it would be a trillion billion (plus infinite time) years old, and would have turned to dust a thousand billion trillion years ago. Only that which is non-material, dwelling outside the dimension of time, can be eternal. God qualifies for both. He is Spirit (non-material), and He dwells outside of time.

      If an atheist considers himself to be intellectually honest, he must follow where knowledge leads. That was the course of the famous atheist, Anthony Flew. Once we acknowledge that God exists, we then have to make our mind up as to whether or not we are morally responsible to Him. If we believe that there is no Hell, we will live our life accordingly. If we believe Hell exists and that there will be divine retribution (ultimate justice), then we need a Savior to wash our sins away before the Day of Judgment. God provided one. Read the Gospel of John to see the details.

      July 3, 2010 at 7:52 pm |
    • AnotherDavid

      Just passing through, read a few posts, and will leave as quickly (short of time). But before I do, there is one point I HAVE to reply to:
      HelsGod wrote:
      "They [atheists] don’t see the illogic in professing hatred for something that doesn’t exist—their hatred proves that, deep down, they do know that God exists."
      I simply cannot believe this in any way shape or form. If HelsGod says that this author wrote that, I'm sure he did, but I think the author is full of it. I have been an atheist my entire life, and I have known thousands of atheists. I have NEVER met one who claimed to hate god. I certainly don't, for the very reason HelsGod pointed out; how can you hate something that doesn't exist? I, and many atheists, DO hate religion, because of the suffering and bloodshed it has caused throughout history, but that is an entirely different matter. One who says he hates god cannot, by definition be an atheist, and I can assure you, atheists DO exist. It is not the first time I heard CHRISTIANS claim that atheists "hate god", but they are equally full of it.

      July 4, 2010 at 4:59 am |
  17. David

    HelsGod you make me laugh trying to use God as a weapon instead of your brain

    July 3, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Well, David, dear, it is good to see that I am making you laugh, but that's okay.

      "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool...." Proverbs 28:26

      "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their own craftiness'; and again, 'The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.'" 1 Corinthians 3:19-20

      "...the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Corinthians 2:14-15

      "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.' Psalm 53:1

      "Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor." Proverbs 14:9

      "A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart." Proverbs 18:2

      "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools..." Romans 1:20-22

      "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
      But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
      It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than for a man to hear the song of fools.
      For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool.
      This also is vanity." Ecclesiastes 7:4-6

      "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise." Proverbs 12:15

      "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed." Proverbs 13:20

      "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." 1 John 2:16

      July 3, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
  18. HeIsGod

    @ Eric – With out knowledge of God's Word that gives us the evidence of His existence, there is not faith. Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. Rom. 10:17 NIV

    Having faith alone is dead.

    James 2:17 – The LORD’s brother James said that true faith will produce this change in us and without it our faith is of little use. It’s as good as dead.

    July 3, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
    • Eric G

      What does that mean? Is this in response to the line of questioning above? For future reference, I do not believe that your bible is accurate or truth. Quoting it to prove your point is an arguement based in falsehood. Please use your own thoughts to express your oppinions. Do you have any comments about my hypothetical "box" response about your faith? I can re-post if you need me to.

      July 3, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      @ Eric G. – What it means is that we must hear the Word of God, which is His message for us that was given to Jesus Christ's disciples. Without knowledge of God's Word, we will not have faith in God. Knowledge is more important than faith because faith can not stand alone with out works (knowledge). Without faith, it is impossible to please God.

      For example, you talked about the box on the table. Let's say that you yearn to know who God is and you see a Bible sitting in the middle of the table. By just walking by or seeing the bible from a distance will not give you any kind of knowledge or understanding of God, right? That is the same as the box you spoke to be about. Unless you open up the bible and read it yourself, you will not find evidence of God's existence. Also, in order to understand the Word of God, you have to have the desire to know Him. If you are not interested in knowing of God is real to you, it will be useless for you to read it because God's Word is full of mysteries and only those who are hungry for His Word and thirst after His righteousness will be the only ones to understand His mysteries. It is food for the soul.

      July 3, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
  19. Matthew

    I'd say the reason some people who say they are Christians are jerks online sometimes is because few Christians are followers of Christ and truly understand the Scriptures. Who Christ was and what he commanded his followers to do.

    That's why it says for those who have ears to hear.

    The Truth is simple but it is hard and the word says you will be persecuted many times. So, if your not being persecuted maybe your not living the Word as Christ taught it.

    The Truth is coming back to more and more people in these interesting times. What would happen to our world if 2 billion people who say they are Christians did what Christ commanded his followers tomorrow? I'd say we'd have less wars more Love.

    July 3, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
  20. Eric G

    Ask youselves why you do not believe in all the other gods man has worshiped throughout human history and you will begin to understand why I do not believe in yours.

    July 3, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
    • nathan

      so you do have a book believed to be revealed to men, by God, telling you not to worship other gods?

      July 3, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
    • Eric G

      Your sarcastic comments are undermined by your use of the word "believed". That word in your statement proves that the rest is unsubstantiated. Using your logic, you believe that the bible is the word of god. You have no evidence of god besides a book that you "believe" that your god influenced. Stay in the shallow end of the pool junior, the adults are talking now. Do you like sarcastic and mean spirited comments? Did you think that was productive or added something of value to the conversation?

      July 3, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
    • nathan

      old man, you make sarcastic comments as well. so apparently you do think they add something to conversations. if you'll reread what i said, you'll realize that your assumption was way off. i said they believe that the Bible is inspired. that's what they believe. that's why they don't believe in other Gods. because the Bible tells them not too. and you said that you are motivated by the same reason, not to believe in their God. i was pointing out that you are not motivated for the same reason that they are, not to believe in other Gods. learn how to read.

      July 3, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
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