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. Scott

    To HelsGod above: My point exactly. Perhaps you misunderstood me. I do not believe anyone is a Christian who does not hold to the word of God and who practices sin as a lifestyle. I think we are saying the same thing. Dr. Amy does not seem like a Christian to me since she holds many views contrary to Scrupture.

    July 5, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
    • Scott

      contrary to "Scripture" that is.

      July 5, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
  2. Phil

    In my view the world has a distorted sense of the word 'hypocrite'. A christian isn't someone who CAN'T sin, just one who has been FORGIVEN of their sins. People are using the isolated sins of Christian leaders as an excuse to continue their own sinful practices. There is a huge difference between a sin and the practice of sin. A sin can be forgiven, even a bunch of sins. The one who PRACTICES sin will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

    July 5, 2010 at 11:37 am |
  3. GodLovesUsAnyway

    For believers: "Love you neighbor as yourself." For non-believers: "Be excellent to each other".

    July 5, 2010 at 10:47 am |
  4. HeIsGod

    @ Dr. Amy – You commented:
    I don't believe in Hell, I love science, I know evolution is a fact, and I don't see any conflict between science and the Bible. To me, the Bible was written by men who had no knowledge of science and were trying to understand God. And to me, Jesus provided an example to try follow.

    Just my POV – I want to say there are many, MANY Christians who 1) don't believe in Hell, 2) don't believe there is only one "true" religion, 3) support reproductive choice, and 4) love science.

    Dr. Amy, to begin with, it was obvious that the people in the Bible didn’t know science. But even the Word of God gives scriptures of science; therefore, it was given revelation to the disciples regarding it. God is the Author of science. It is the wisdom and knowledge that God has given mankind to understand it. I don’t know which Bible you read, but according to the one I read, the Holy Bible, it mentions hell and that many shall find the gate which is broad that leads to destruction and many shall find it.

    You seem to also sound like Atheists by proclaiming that the Bible was written by men. These men, the Disciples of Christ, saw, talked, walked, and traveled with Him, so how can you say that they were trying to understand God when Christ, being God Himself, taught them? You also said, “And to me, Jesus provided an example to try follow”…okay, if Jesus provide an example for us, how would these men know about His example? They also followed Christ example. You need to ask the Holy Spirit to open up your eyes of understanding and guide you into all Truth. Science alone is not good. The Bible is better than in technology or science can give us. You are either a Christian or not. You can’t be in between. God will not accept part time or partial Christians. He gave His Son fully and partially to us. We either believe fully with our hearts or we don’t.

    (1 Corinthians 1)
    19 – For it is written:
    "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    The intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."[c]

    20 – Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
    22 – Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
    23 -but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
    24 – but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
    25 – For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
    27 – But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
    28 – He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.

    Your family culture or any culture is not an open door to salvation. Jesus Christ is the Golden Gate to eternity.

    July 5, 2010 at 10:36 am |
    • HeIsGod


      "Our Heavenly Father gave His Son fully to us, 'NOT' partially.

      July 5, 2010 at 10:41 am |
  5. Canadian Jim

    Actually more ifascinating to meet Bono in heaven will be the raction of the self-righteous Christians who meet HItler, Stalin, Abortion doctors, strippers, hookers, mafioso, the French, and realize that no matter how they feel about them here, they, each and everyone are children of God, and if they believe Jesus died for their sins, then they believe Jesus died for Hitler's too, even Bill Clinton's. Enjoy heaven y'all. (DO you think Ted Bundy will be singing bass in the angel choir, or tenor?

    July 5, 2010 at 10:28 am |
    • Gene

      Candian Jim; Self-rightous "Christians", do not decide who goes to Heaven (thank God!) and you won't find any SELF-rightous ones, there. There will be no hatred in Heaven.

      July 5, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
  6. John

    you believe what you want to believe. no reason not to respect others

    July 5, 2010 at 10:06 am |
  7. Scott

    Christians do not practice continuously or approve of what the Bible calls sin. See Dr. Amy above.

    July 5, 2010 at 10:02 am |
    • HeIsGod

      Scott, I sure don't understand how anyone can have an understanding of Christ when he/she is living against His will and Word. Makes no sense to me, but I could be wrong.

      July 5, 2010 at 10:20 am |
  8. john

    The key is speaking the truth in love. To focus on the lack of graciousness without telling people the truth about where they will spend eternity is the sin of omission. (Eph. 4:15)

    July 5, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  9. Kyo

    It's online everyone is a jerk, also everyone looks like super models and are in the list of Forbes wealthiest people.

    July 5, 2010 at 9:39 am |
  10. Bill

    And you writing this proves you are wrong. There are only two kinds of people, nice people and not so nice people.

    July 5, 2010 at 9:35 am |
  11. Housla

    All these posted comments should be thoroughly read and analyzed by Christian church leades, especially pastors and elders. Instead I see comments from them trying to defend the actions of the "jerks". No wonder reactions from non believers are getting more negative especially with the introduction of the internet. Actions by these "jerks" through the use of the internet is largely due to bad teachings by these Christian leaders. Having a black President, and a financial crisis which affected the poor more than anyone in their basic needs for employment, food, shelter, education and healthcare have created lots of "monster" Christians who used the internet to spew their hatred and fear mongering mentality. They don't understand their actions are totally not "Christ likeness". The muddled their actions with politics and racism. They don't seem to know or want to know "WHAT IS JESUS WAY' before starting to talk about the "HOW". And that is the reason why so many of us have or seem to be following a different Jesus. There are enough materials in all these posted comments for Pastors and Church leaders to lead their congregation to only "ONE JESUS".

    July 5, 2010 at 9:30 am |
    • HeIsGod

      Housla, can you be more specific when you are accusing Christians of spewing hate? Do you not know, that's if you are a Christian, that we, Pastors, Leaders, Ministers, Preachers, and children of the Most High God, are in spiritual warfare day in and day out?

      July 5, 2010 at 10:14 am |
  12. merecat

    I have certainly read many UNBELIEVERS comments and they could top the JERK list.

    July 5, 2010 at 9:28 am |
  13. Louie

    I'm not sure I completely agree with your first point (business travelers approach), some people want to create an online persona – a notion or reflection of themselves to the outside world. I do this in my line of work. As such when I meet people face-to-face, they already know me to some degree. While I have opinions about certain subject matter, I do not nor would not project a viewpoint that creates that persona is controversial (and certainly not hateful) – but one of intelligent, thoughtful, mindful, knowledgeable, ... This garners the respect that I am seeking from my (online) peers. Why would I want to hide behind some veil and present a different personality they who I really am? I do agree there are those that do it, but they are mindless and don't fully really once they create a persona, it's will follow them around (what happens online, stays online for everyone to see).

    July 5, 2010 at 6:49 am |
  14. Mark from Middle River

    Barbara ... Power.

    Some people of faith and some atheist and so many others on this planet. Anything to feel a step over those that disagree with a persons point of view.

    The problem is that people live in their own world surrounded by people who think exactly like them. When they encounter people ...normally who live in their own groups is when issues arrive. Then you have two people who are used to their friends telling them they are always right confront each other.

    We can't all get along because when encountering a opposing viewpoint or ideal to admit we might be wrong would shake everything in our being to its core. We can't all get along because each side knows that and there is no greater thrill than to rip and shed another's core beliefs and values. it is the ultimate goal and high for so many of us who post online, in places such as this. To see a persons words posted and too continue to fire back in post after post .... its a complete rush.

    July 5, 2010 at 3:08 am |
  15. Pastor Bob

    The Bible has withstood 2000 years of scrutiny. As more and more archaeological discoveries are made the events in the Bible continue to be upheld, not disproved. It is indeed a miraculous book, the more you study it the more this Truth will become apparent.

    I believe there is a God and He did send his Son to die for us on the cross. The only way to achieve eternal life is through the Son. It is a joyous and hopeful way to live to know there is an eternal life. I am commanded in following Jesus to share the gospel with those who don't know it or have rejected it which is truly loving my neighbor as there is no greater gift than salvation. I personally don't believe in forcing it on anyone, if you don't get it you don't get it, but I will continue to model to you to the best of my human ability, the many benefits of living a life through Jesus. God doesn't promise us a wonderful life as Christians, that is the prosperity gospel which in my study of scripture is a man invention and quite off-track. There will be trials, The Enemy will attack strong Christians that are making progress in spreading the Gospel, and we'll be persecuted for our beliefs as evidenced by many of the comments here and missionary history through the ages.
    Is the Church perfect? No, it is a product of man. Are Christians perfect? No, they are man. However, salvation and eternal life are perfect if you get it.

    The atheist position that we're simply biological critters whom expire with our last breath seems to me to be a very bleak, hopeless and meaningless existence. If they are right, which I believe they're not, then I'll never have any conscious knowledge that I was wrong. However, if God does exist and sent his Son 2000 some years ago as I believe, then they will know they were wrong....Forever.

    July 5, 2010 at 2:56 am |
    • HeIsGod

      Hallelujah, Glory to God!!!

      That is the same thing I tell the Atheist, Pastor Bob. If they are right, which I also know they are not, when they die, they have nothing to lose, but if they are wrong, which they are, eternal damnation is their eternity. The true followers of Christ who are willing to pick up the Cross and follow Him, strive to reach our perfection in Christ and it isn't easy. There is no perfect Church, as we see that even Satan takes a seat in the congregation, but demons flee at the name of Jesus Christ...GLORY!!!

      I praise God for your comment and may He richly bless you, your family, and your ministry, as well as my family in Christ Jesus!

      July 5, 2010 at 10:06 am |
    • Kate

      Well no it hasn't. In 2000 years, no one has ever proved anything in it, so it basically has spent 2000 long years not ever having been validated.

      And I'm sorry you think that living a life without religion is bleak and meaningless. You don't have to be the center of the universe to be happy.

      July 6, 2010 at 1:01 am |
    • Housla

      Pastor Bob, why are you afraid to address directly why there is a public perception that some or many of us Christians are perceived as jerk on the internet. We used the internet to advance our agenda by using and populating hate mails,
      false accusationss, untrue stories, rumour mongering, etc. for advancing our political agenda as well as the kingdom of God.
      Instead you go off in the tangent and talk about the Christian belief and practices. Please spend your time on teaching the true Jesus Way irrespective of any political agenda. Do you dare to openly tell your Congregatioin that Health Care, among
      education, food, shelter, are basic needs of a human being. Recently, I was greatly saddened, when my church (one of the biggest and best known in the US) has in the practice of Christian compassion, left out Health Care as one of the big issues facing the poor. When challenged, the leaders of the church said it was a very sensitive issue for political reasons and moreover the country has no money for such help. It will bankrupt the country. Will you condone as a Pastor such a deletion?
      This issue, among the hatred for a black President, has been widely circulted by Christians, sadly to say many of them Republicans, through the use of the internet. Why don't you google Frank Schaeffer whose father was a champion for advancing the Christian movement in the US and read his comments/

      July 6, 2010 at 12:17 pm |
  16. Grain

    To nick M. I think you are confusing translation and interpretation. You were saying that if it was such a big issue the translation of the scripture, God would have melted the pens of the translators – if i paraphrased you correctly. What I shared about the verse that many Christians misinterpreted had to do with interpretation not translation. The translators of the Bible translated the Bible but the interpretation was not given to them. We can see this in the case of the prophets. Few prophets during their time knew the interpretation or revelation of what they themselves spoke. Because it was to be revealed later. So, we see that the translation and the interpretation does not have to be given at the same time. It is important to know that before the interpretation comes what one gets will be just speculation. I am glad the Holy Spirit did not allow such speculations of the interpretation to be included as the Bible. You are right that there were subtle errors in translation that were recently corrected. This subtle errors did not affect unbelievers salvation. Were they had an effect was on the rich experience of Christ by Christians. Many errors in Christendom do not stem from proper translation but rather from speculation of the interpretation. The interpretation i shared is not first hand; it is the revelation given to the church by the Lord through his chosen ones throughout the ages. God has chosen throughout the church age some to give them the revelation of the Mystery of God Hidden before. The ministry from which i share this revelation comes not just from someone in this century but from the cream of the crop of Christians writers throughout the church age. It appears to be a new one in the block to those who have not heard it but in reality it is the accumulated consistent revelation given throughout the church age even from the time of the original apostles until the present time through this chosen vessels. Take the Bible for an example, in Genesis we have the seeds that are developed through the Bible until we arrive at Revelation which is a harvest of this fully developed seeds.

    July 4, 2010 at 11:54 pm |
  17. Not in name only

    teapartyjesus.tumblr.com a very timely blog 🙂

    July 4, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
  18. rotorhead1871

    most "christians" arnt really very good christians either....

    July 4, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
  19. Jack Mullen

    I am a very devout Catholic and often preach to the world in the comments section that abortion and gay sex are evil and wrong. Those that commit these sins against humanity and God will suffer enternity in Hell. Now, what is wrong with saying this, because it is true. We desperately need to end the killing of innocent unborn children in America and yet we are about to appoint Kagan to the Supreme Court who fought for partial birth abortion which is second away from being murder. (if the baby survives partial birth abortion, then Obama and his pro abortion cronies what the baby killed a second time after it is born. Now, is saying this truth hate mail. Absolutely not, because Jesus himself would have said the same thing to his followers if they were aborting babies. Sometimes, Christians must stand for what is right or Jesus' death on the cross will have no meaning in the world . Jesus accepted death on the cross so that his followers would not fear speaking the truth. If the truth about abortion and gay sex seems to be hard to take, then you only have Jesus Himself to blame. All of his Apostles except St John, died horrible deaths because they spoke the truth. The problem today is that it is not politically correct to speak out openly against those that would commit abortion or gay sex. Those that are unwilling to tell the world that these practices will lead millions of souls to Hell are only leaving these poor ignorant souls to a horrible fate that they are too stupid to comprehend. It would be funny, if it were not such a horrible fate that awaits them. Google the apparitions and miracle of Our Lady of Fatima if you want to know the real truth of the horrible fate that awaits millions of people who commit serious sins like abortion, murder and gay sex. Our Lady gave three small children a vision of Hell and they never stopped devoting their lives to preventing souls for going to Hell. Google Our Lady of Fatima and you will hear the truth.

    July 4, 2010 at 11:09 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Good morning Jack, I am not a Catholic, I am a non-denominational Christian and I sure appreciate your comment! I is so true that we have to speak out what is true or many will lost forever. Even God said that we are without excuse. There are many other sins, besides abortion & gay s*x, that separates one form our Living God.

      Thank you for sharing this and may the Spirit of God be poured out upon all mankind and deliver us from every demonic forces of darkness that is holding down many in captivity through sin.

      GOD BLESS YOU!!!

      July 5, 2010 at 9:58 am |
    • Kate

      Partial birth abortion is only done to save the mother's life. Fetus don't survive too well without a living mother. It's not sane to make partial birth abortion illegal.

      July 6, 2010 at 1:30 am |
  20. Larry

    ThWhat ou describe is not limted to online behavior. Plenty happens in the real world too, including by people who are supposedly servants of God. How Christian is it to kill an abortion doctor? How about the attitudes to gays? God did make them too. How about the hate that pours out of the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson? Lot's of judgement happening by Christians, which is ironic since that too was something that Christ said not to do, and He practiced it.

    July 4, 2010 at 10:58 pm |
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