My take: A word to Christians - Be nice
February 9th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

My take: A word to Christians - Be nice

Editor's note: John S. Dickerson is author of the book “The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors that Will Crash the American Church ... and How to Prepare” and senior pastor of Cornerstone in Prescott, Arizona. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter @JohnSDickerson

By John S. Dickerson, Special to CNN

Last week a high-profile American writer and news personality asked me a painful question: “Hey pastor, can a Christian tweet hate?”

It was not a hypothetical question. He was asking because some of his 1.3 million Twitter followers claim to be “Christian,” and some of the meanest, most perverse hate-tweets he receives come from these self-proclaimed Christians.

We’ve all seen folks, Christian and otherwise, lose their cool in a Facebook face-off or in the comment section under a controversial news story. But as I scrolled through the “Christian” hate tweets to this news personality, I was baffled and ashamed by these so-called followers of Christ. One user describes himself not merely as Christian but as “sharing God’s message of Grace with everyone I encounter.” The messenger of Grace recently tweeted that he doesn’t merely hate this news personality, he despises and loathes him.

These are the moments when it’s embarrassing to be a Christian. I’m not embarrassed to believe the extravagant claims of Christianity: that Christ was born to a virgin, died for our sins, physically rose from the grave and is returning to rule the world. But I am embarrassed to be associated with some of the people who claim his name.

I have written in the past about the bad reputation that Christians have in America. Some argue that it comes from misrepresentation by the media. Others argue that “all who live godly will suffer persecution,” and that’s why we Christians have a poor reputation. Maybe there’s some truth to those claims, but we Christians have to acknowledge another reason why we are perceived as hateful: because many of our number are.

More and more, I see hateful Christians chalking up their disrepute to “persecution.” God tells us otherwise. In 1 Peter 4 we’re told, “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed. …” And that’s the truth; sometimes we are insulted for proclaiming the good news of salvation in Christ. But listen to what follows: “If you suffer, however, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.”

The Apostle Peter is more or less saying: If you suffer for sharing the good news of Christ, great, you’re blessed. But if you suffer just because you’re being a criminal or acting like an idiot, then don’t blame it on Christ.

Some 2,000 years ago, Peter knew so-called Christians would be criminals and “meddlers.” He knew some would claim, “Wow, I’m really suffering for Jesus,” when they are really just suffering for being jerks.

The word “meddler” means busybody: someone who inserts himself into matters that are not his own. Might this include some people involved in the Twitter, Facebook and “comments” showdowns of our day?

So yes, “all who live godly will suffer persecution.” But let’s not be jerks, get persecuted and then blame it on Christ. American Christianity, with its past position of cultural superiority, gave birth to some self-righteous and condescending so-called Christians. These folks may be culturally Christian, but they know little of Christ and his actual message of humility and repentance. I am convinced that, if Jesus Christ were here walking among us, he would have nothing to do with those who claim his name and consistently spew hate.

Theologians and academics will argue about that last sentence. Isn’t Jesus “a friend of sinners?” Yes. Doesn’t Jesus’ grace wash away the sins of those who trust in him? Yes. Wouldn’t that include the sin of "hate tweet"? Yes.

In seminaries and churches, we tend to engage in obscure questions about theology. For example, “Is it possible for someone to truly trust Christ and spend their entire life tweeting hate?”

Maybe so. But Jesus didn’t engage in such esoteric abstractions. He taught simple truth with clarity, authority and practicality. On controversial issues—“Are hate tweeters true Christians?”—I find myself drawn to the simple words of Scripture. Theologians will argue and debate, but God’s word is simple and clear.

“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.” (1 John 2:9,11)

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3:9,10)

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)

Jesus put it this way in Matthew 12:34-36: “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”

If we will give account for every careless word spoken, might we also give account for every careless comment typed or tweeted?

Christians aren’t the only ones hurling hateful blows on the Web. But we are the only ones who claim to follow the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. So let’s be nice.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John S. Dickerson.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

soundoff (10,298 Responses)
  1. John

    The christians on the right wing are hardly christains at all. They stand for guns and weapons of all types. They do not want to help those in need. They are too eagar to fight wars. They are intoloerant of those different than themselves.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      Do you think Jesus will make them check in their guns at the Pearly Gates. Or, might there be a trap door waiting for the gun nuts? 🙂

      February 10, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  2. Drew

    On CNN's homepage at the same time: "Christians, Be Nice" and "Celebs Who Don't Believe in God". So, CNN is holier-than-thou AND provokes people with stories like the latter at the same time. How about this for a headline?: "CNN, Be Nice"

    February 10, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Answer


      Editor's note: John S. Dickerson is author of the book “The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors that Will Crash the American Church ... and How to Prepare” and senior pastor of Cornerstone in Prescott, Arizona


      Note the words: senior pastor.

      One of your own kind is admonishing you.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Chad @ thebreakupnote

      It is my belief that when news agencies like CNN put headlines up that are about Christianity or Atheism, such as the two you mentioned, that it has less to do with anything other than milking the cash cow. Let's face it, this topic generates clicks.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  3. Surthurfurd

    If you are attacking Christians because they are Christians you are falling into the same trap this man is complaining about some Christians doing.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  4. kamanakapu

    Every person has the duties to (a) learn the truth about The Truth, (b) to know the truth about The Truth, (c) to speak the truth about The Truth, and (d) whenever the oppurtunity arises, to teach the truth about The Truth. What, then, is The Truth? The Truth is that All Are Equal and there is nothing that is more important or less important Than All. It is a lie, therefore, that one is mightier than All or that some are more important than others. Yet those are the very lies perpetrated by religion: that one (god) is mightier than all or that some (prophets) are more important than others.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      "My god is bigger than your god!"
      Religion is an overgrown pep rally for delusional adults. A simple extension of prehistoric tribalism.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Realist

      ..... Visit ..... www dot GOD IS IMAGINARY dot com ..... for the TRUTH ... and ..... www dot EVIL BIBLE .dot com ... Will enlighten you to the evils of the Christian religion and their god ..... .....

      February 10, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  5. LS

    I am convicted. Thanks for reminding me who I am (and can be) in Christ. May God continue to bless your ministry.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Damocles

      What were you convicted of?

      February 10, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      February 10, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  6. John


    February 10, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Which ones are hypocrites?

      February 10, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Rich

      Everyone's a hypocrite

      You too John

      February 10, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  7. ArthurP

    No True Scotsman.....

    February 10, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  8. Jon

    In our neighborhood, the meanest, most elitist people and stuck people are Christian. They frown on any who arent and are much less accepting. The more "Christian" they are, the more they seem to gossip and sneer at others, both religious and non-religious.

    I find it odd that religions, especially those in the Western world are supposed to love thy neighbor and look out for one another. Most of the adult Christians I have met are the least welcoming people.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Ryan

      Hey, Jon. I am sorry that has been your experience with "Christians." I am a Christian. In would say that has not been my experience with TRUE believers in Christ. It has however been my experience with inauthentic "christians." There are lots of posers out there Jon claiming to be Christians but aren't, even some on TV and elsewhere. It could be that some of your neighbors are posing and not authentic. I think you'd likely find true believers to be people you'd love to spend an afternoon with. You just have to be able to tell the real from the fake. Take care.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  9. Annie

    There are a lot of Christians who are full of hate and bigotry who have no clue what Christ requires of His followers to be able to "stand" at Judgment.

    We received salvation because of our faith that He is Lord, but we have to be deligent to maintain our salvation by obedience and total subjection to His commands. His commands aren't suggestions. They are eternal life-giving requirements that must be followed.

    Watch out for pastors/preachers who don't preach ALL of what Jesus taught. Jesus warned that there would be false teachers in the world who would mislead many. If you hate, you are in terrible bondage but Jesus will help to free you of it if you ask Him and trust that He'll bring you out of that bondage, He'll certainly help you but you have to be in subjection to His teaching and stay in prayer, recognizing that His ways are the ONLY ways that bring eternal life.

    Scripture says that people will know us (should be able to recognize us) us BY OUR LOVE and so will Jesus recognize us by our love. If we are haters and bigots, we dissociate ourselves from Him who is eternal LIFE. Don't let the evil force in the world take your inheritance – your eternal life – from you by giving in to temptations to hate, condemn, and judge other people. Don't follow follow the ways of evil.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • jungleboo

      Well, Annie, have you even considered that you might well indeed be one of the "false teachers" that you warn us about. If not, why not?

      February 10, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  10. Micah 6:8

    I wholeheartedly agree with the author of this article. I am a Christian who follows the teachings of Christ, rather than the legalism of organized religion. I do believe that the Gospel is true, especially based on the rapid growth of Christianity during the period of time in which first-hand witnesses lived.

    To live as Christ requires Christians to follow his example by loving each and every person. It is not a Christian's job to judge, point fingers, or call someone else out for their lifestyle because everyone, especially including Christians, fall short of the glory of God. No one is deserving of God's love and gift of his son Jesus, but that's the point of the Gospel. Even though we do not deserve his love or grace, he gave it to us anyway.

    Imagine that you had committed a crime and were in front of a fair judge. If the judge were fair, you would expect to have consequences for your crime. God is the judge of our sins, and he is a fair judge so we deserve punishment for our sins. But because God loves us beyond compare he sent his son in our place to take the punishment for our sins. That is the Gospel.

    For that reason exactly, I will choose to love those who hate me. I admit that I struggle with loving those who don't love me, but as a Christian, that is what I am called to do. My job is not to judge anyone for their actions, but to love them in the same way that God loved us.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Tom

      I have diarrhea that was more fun to look at than this... Totally brainwashed fools

      February 10, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Cultosaurus Rex

      God is the judge of our sins, and he is a fair judge so we deserve punishment for our sins. But because God loves us beyond compare he sent his son in our place to take the punishment for our sins.

      So i can sin all i want because Jesus already paid for them ?
      Wow, great religion you have there.

      February 10, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  11. Dennis

    Behavior = Intentions. If you intend to share Christ, behave like Christ and if you behave like Christ you will be sharing Christ.

    Actions speak louder than words. We will be judged not only by how we obey but also how we treat others. When you get up on your pedestal, prepare to get knocked off. I'm not better than others but how I treat others, whether they are poor, homeless, addicts, republicans, democrats, communists, women, men, elderly, or what not counts for a lot.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      Yes, you will be judged for self-righteous, sanctimonious rants towards your fellow man.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Dennis, bravo. Judge not, you should learn to read.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Dennis

      @Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      I have a right to judge whether I want to engage in a behavior or whether it is good for me to do this or that. I have a right to decide or choose what I say, do, or think, as you do. What I base my decisions on may be different from you but that doesn't make your opinion or my opinion any less than the others. Choice, freedom of choice, is all about us making decisions/judgments regarding what is good for us as individuals.

      You have a right to make your choices. That should never be questioned. My comments were to those who claim to be Christian. If you don't claim to be Christian that is fine. Behaviors are a reflection of what we believe. Our behaviors reveal our intentions. When what you say is inconsistant with what you claim to believe there is a problem. Sanctimonious or self-righteous? That was not my intention.

      I think the article is about a person who calls himself a Christian who is embarrassed by so-called Christians behavior. Their behavior is inconsistent with what they allegedly believe.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:01 am |
  12. starhopper

    LOL – I rest my case. All one has to do is read the sometimes venomous, often defensive or attacking nature of the responses on this thread to witness the reason I believe there are very few true Christians in the US today. They are all posers.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      ...and Rethuglicans

      February 10, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  13. edweird69

    1. God is satisfied with his works
    Gen 1:31
    God is dissatisfied with his works.
    Gen 6:6
    2. God dwells in chosen temples
    2 Chron 7:12,16
    God dwells not in temples
    Acts 7:48
    3. God dwells in light
    Tim 6:16
    God dwells in darkness
    1 Kings 8:12/ Ps 18:11/ Ps 97:2
    4. God is seen and heard
    Ex 33:23/ Ex 33:11/ Gen 3:9,10/ Gen 32:30/ Is 6:1/
    Ex 24:9-11
    God is invisible and cannot be heard
    John 1:18/ John 5:37/ Ex 33:20/ 1 Tim 6:16
    5. God is tired and rests
    Ex 31:17
    God is never tired and never rests
    Is 40:28

    February 10, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • catfishgrazis14

      more religious fairy tale garbage from the bible. more truth is found in LITTLE BOW PEEP or ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  14. catfishgrazis14

    Religion is the curse of mankind. it has brought more death, destruction, and intolerance than any of man's other creations. Christianity and islam are two of the worst.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  15. sybaris

    I don't feel bad enough about myself to be a christian

    February 10, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      Living in constant fear of an angry god must be stressful.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  16. Elliot Carlin

    Next week: Imam decries beheadings. Week after: Rabbi apologizes for separating worship by gender; following week: Atheists sign pledge to be more humble. Guess we all have problems, don't we?

    February 10, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  17. TeeKay

    Gotta love people like GO_GOP. So yours is the only true religion?And you make this comment in response to an article warning about the dangers of Christian superiority? And the rest of us will burn in hell? And that is part of a divine plan made by an all loving Father? Well I will not hate or dismiss you my right wing friend. I will however see you and your like-minded brothers and sisters on the other side. count on it.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  18. Thomas

    The cover art for the article is quite intetresting.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Damocles

      I like the crooked cross motif.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  19. Jean

    I am a Christian and try to follow the Savior's teachings. I am also human and so I fail in many ways. Because I believe in a loving God, I do not waste my time on atheist websites (but allow them the right to do so). Years ago, I worked in an office with an atheist co-worker whom I liked very much. We did not discuss religion; we just enjoyed one another's company and learned from each other. If you are an athiest, please allow the rest of us to enjoy whatever religion we associate ourselves with (preferably without your comments regarding the size of our brains) I avoid websites and articles about atheism. Maybe you could do the same, and avoid articles and websites regarding religion .CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG??? this isnt kindergarten folks.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      Lovely derogatory speak towards non christians...as usual.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Damocles

      Huh... that's weird.... I was unaware that CNN was a religious website.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • snowboarder

      as an atheist and an engineer, i work with and socialize with members of pretty much every possible religion. thankfully most people were taught that religion and politics are not to be discussed in polite company. the only time enmity rises is when someone forgets that basic rule.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Science

      Would be nice but ..........
      Well maybe they should not have created the wedge !!!

      The wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Insti-tute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Insti-tute manifesto known as the Wedge Docu-ment,[1] which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda whose ultimate goal is to defeat materialism, naturalism, evolution, and "reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic

      February 10, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      First off...thank you so much for "allowing me" my rights...How very magnanimous of you.
      Your idea, to avoid articles and websites that deal with atheism....Do you always hide from anothers opinion, is you faith so weak that hearing another point of view would somehow cause you harm?

      You put a spotlight on one of the biggect problems with religion....Religion has the answers, do not listen to anything that might differ.

      Open your mind and LISTEN to others opinions and you might actually start to understand what it is you truly believe and why. Ignoring others opinions is for the lazy brained.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Hammerdown

      I am an American.
      I will read what i want when i want.
      I will also make comments.
      If you do not like the comments
      DONT read them.
      Problem solved.

      February 10, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  20. sanchiathesly

    The greatest line in the Christian bible, which you will find paraphrased in all the major religions, is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Having personally endured hate and ridicule, I can tell you it's very painful and damaging. Therefore, I would never do it to anyone else.
    This is such simple logic, and you don't have to be a Christian or Jew or Moslem to practice it. If you don't want to believe in the rabbi who taught it, than accept the commandment as excellent social advice. If all the world lived by this one precept, there would be no crime and no wars.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Doc

      The sad irony is that every religion has a "golden rule" like this. It's hardly a Christian monopoly.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:44 am |
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About this blog

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.