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.
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.
A good friend of mine reminded me that not everyone who goes to church is saved! Same goes about someone saying they are a Christian, not every one who claims to be one is. The bible talks to us about false prophets and toward the ends they will be numerous. It also tells us to be Christian we should try to live the way Jesus did. We all fall short in the glory of the Lord, we stumble and fall along the way. Luke 6:37 tells us not to judge and we won't be judged, Romans 14 tells us to stop judging each other, and the book of James tells us there is only one judge, that is our Lord.
beware sun will fry earth
I don't think it is specifically "christian" thing.There are moments I feel embarrassed to be human. Problem with folk religious is that whatever they do, they claim to be doing from some mysterious moral high ground and based on the sanction of their respective gods.... Beware of folks religious they have gods that forgive them everything
I've felt the same thing. Proselyting a faith as the only one representing ultimate truth and goodness and the only path to glory necessitates the proselytizer taking a position that they "know best" and are trying to guide the hapless down the road to paradise. This may feel comfortable for the believer, they may not even be able to imagine any ill-effects. To those of other or no faith can appear as an illegitimate claim of moral superiority. And once one starts down the road of using fear to imply the negative side of non-belief the line becomes very blurred.
The traditional doctrine of Christianity asks the adherents to be "fishers of men", but living the principles would appear to be the wisest way to achieve that goal. Active recruitment and aggressive evangelizing can be interpreted as belligerence and intimidation, no matter how benign the intent.
A few questions should help shed light on the relationship between religion and rational thought.
The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:
(c) Economics; or
You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are a:
(c) NASA astronomer; or
I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am
(a) A gifted psychologist
(b) A well respected geneticist
(c) A highly educated sociologist
(d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.
I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am
(a) a delusional schizophrenic;
(b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly
(c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or
(d) your average Christian
Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:
(a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;
(b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;
(c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or
(d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.
I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty". I am
(a) A victim of child molestation
(b) A r.ape victim trying to recover
(c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions
(d) A Christian
The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:
(c) Archeology; or
What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:
(a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they are morally obliged to believe on pain of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;
(b) Religion can make a statement, such as “there is a composite god comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;
(c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas religion is regional and a person’s religious conviction, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than an accident of birth; or
(d) All of the above.
If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:
(a) a deep psychiatric issue;
(b) an irrational fear or phobia;
(c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or
(d) my religious belief.
Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free and my own salary is also tax free, at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am
(a) A sleazy Wall Street banker
(b) A mafia boss
(c) A drug pusher; or
(d) A Catholic Priest, Protestant Minister or Jewish Rabbi.
What do the following authors all have in common – Jean Paul Sartre, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, and Blaise Pascal:
(a) They are among the most gifted writers the World has known;
(b) They concentrated on opposing dogma and opening the human mind and spirit to the wonders of free thought and intellectual freedom;
(c) They were intimidated by the Catholic Church and put on the Church’s list of prohibited authors; or
(d) All of the above.
The AIDS epidemic will kill tens of millions in poor African and South American countries before we defeat it. Condoms are an effective way to curtail its spread. As the Pope still has significant influence over the less educated masses in these parts of the World, he has exercised this power by:
(a) Using some of the Vatican’s incomprehensible wealth to educate these vulnerable people on health family planning and condom use;
(b) Supporting government programs that distribute condoms to high risk groups;
(c) Using its myriad of churches in these regions to distribute condoms; or
(d) Scaring people into NOT using condoms, based upon his disdainful and aloof view that it is better that a person die than go against the Vatican’s position on contraceptive use.
Are you some kind of nut?
Very funny and yet true.
Clever post, but please check your facts before you write. The picture you paint of Christians is far removed from Biblical Christianity. Please find out what Christians actually believe (maybe, gasp, read a gospel in the Bible???) before you bash them.
Since you agree that the post paints a fairly honest picture of christians, I don't think it is a dose of reality that needs to read.
Hey Dose, keep up the good work my friend.
In my opinion organized religion (of all sorts) is just plain silly. I don't need to believe in all kinds of fanciful stuff. I doubt that there is a god petty enough to 'smite me down' for not 'believing in it'. But if there is such a god I will not believe in it out of spite. Screw that imaginary control freak in the sky! I've got free will and I'm gonna use it.
Dawkins thinks the seeds of life were put here by space aliens!!! Lol, you atheists are stupid
I wish for once a creationist would argue what Dawkins says, not what you wish he would say.
No. It is more likely to come from an invisible being that loves everything but tolerates narrow minded see like it is going out of style.
The only stupid thing about that theory (other than the lack of proof) is that it doesn't not answer the question of where life began. Who created the aliens then? I believe that life can arise from 'non-living' matter. I believe that we will soon find that the line between alive and non-alive is very thin and blurry indeed.
I recently was in a delegation that visited the Ontario Legislative Assembly (Canada) as part of our trip. As a deist I was quite surprised that they opened with prayers, not just Christian, but Moslem, Hindu, Budhist, and even Native religions that they alternated. Though I would prefer that congress would not pray ar all, it would be nice to see them adopt such a policy or develop a deist prayer that could encompass the deities.
You come home one day and you hear your wife on the phone talking to someone she calls her husband. You ask who she's talking to and she says husband #56. On her phone are 400 similar numbers, all called husband, but regretibly, she deleted yours because the phone ran out of storage space. You ask her why she's doing this and she says she's not sure who her husband is, so she started typing in numbers randomly and numbering them in case that one was her husband, she could remember it better by the number. When she goes to bed at night, she says good night 400 times and doesn't say good night to you.
This is completely normal, right?
Meanwhile, in the liberal non-Christian utopia of Chicago there have been 40 homicides in January. A place where guns are banned. But in full CNN reality avoidance mode: "Look, a 'Christian' tweeted something mean. Let's focus on this instead."
you do realize that people perpetrating these 40 murders a months are most likely church attending Christians. So, yes, lets talk about that
THis is a stupid argument. It is a marketing tool, you tool. Look how many people are responding to this post. btw, it is Sunday, Nincompoop.
Its a submission by a contributor, and CNN has covered that story at least 3 times this month in their coverage of thegun control debates. I don't see the that as being their decision making process or find evidence to support that claim.
Common Sense: get some.
@Skeeve U said: "you do realize that people perpetrating these 40 murders a months are most likely church attending Christians. So, yes, lets talk about that" - One of the most rediculous comments I have ever seen - If it were possible to say something less competent and more wrong I guess you'd have found it - I do not usually go in for negative commentary as it is counter productive but statements like yours end the conversation and people walk away shaking their heads - I guess it could not possibly be that these deaths were the result of Drug and Gang Violence - Which in fact are the cause of many random acts of violence - Then you have domestic disputes which result in many, many deaths - I guess aetheists never have Drug Problems or Domesic Violence issues??? . Get a Grip - Reality is knocking - Answer... .
Thanks for this article. I wasn't familiar with this scriptural passage:
“For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)
As an atheist, I find it interesting that in this passage, that the author clearly knows that no one could possibly see God. It's right there in scripture that god does not exist. Thanks.
Not "seeing" is not proof of non-existence. Afterall, you've never seen your brain, as you do your arm, but I take it you have one.
There are a hundred Christianities (Catholicism, Evangelical Christiainty, 7th Day Adventists, Witnesses of Jehovah, Armstrongism, Christian Israelite Church, Apostles of Johane Marauke, Celestial Church of Christ, Christ Apostolic Church, Quakerism, Church of the Lord (Aladura), etc.). They each have very different gods. Each Christianity calls its gods Yahweh, Jehovah, God, Lord, Jesus, Christ, and Satan, but they are very different gods.
It's like knowing a hundred men named John Smith; the only thing they have in common is their name. Other than that, they are very different.
Religion is the Destroyer!!! Wake up and get off your knees people. We are all one. Why can't anyone see that?
Lots of people see that. You are not alone. But of course, there are different approaches to this. Religion is very destructive, but the people who follow religions are capable of overcoming it if we lay out clear evidence contradicting their beliefs in a rational manner. We need to win over religionists by calm, thoughtful discussion and reasoned debate. Let's be less hateful than they are.
Read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill...
Ten Reasons You Know you are an Atheist.
1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a Christian if you live in the USA) and had to do your own thinking to rise above the beliefs that still occupy the mind of the believer. This usually involved being smart and working hard at school and college so as to get a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to dumb yourself down and conform. In short, you had the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers. The more you came to understand the Universe, the less reason there was to believe in a god and the more you came to appreciate human nature, the more you understood why billions of us still do.
2. While rejecting the supernatural elements of the Bible, you nevertheless retain a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent you reject Christian morality, it is where it is mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, your basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – you just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over your head in order to act in a manner that you consider moral.
3. You know a great deal more about the Bible than most believers. This is because you took the time to read it yourself and did not rely on the primary-color simple stories you learned in Sunday school. You have also probably done some research into the historical Jesus and have a good handle on where he REALLY fit in to the broader picture of the Middle East at the time. Needless to say, his miracles and other magic powers soon started to look pretty unlikely.
4. Your knowledge of basic science and history is much stronger than that of your average believer. You likely have a basic working knowledge of physics, astronomy, evolutionary biology and cosmology and a good idea of the history of life on this planet. This acc.umulated knowledge puts you in a position to judge the claims of the Bible in a critical light and they are almost always found wanting. To the theist, this makes you “elitist” and ‘arrogant”.
5. You relish your role as a religious minority in the USA, as this gives you an impetus to fight and you understand how others with unpopular, but doubtlessly correct views have felt throughout history. There is something altogether satisfying to you about having a deep conviction you are right and being viewed with disdain for your views by the errant majority. You feel a quiet confidence that future generations will look back on you as a member of a class of trailblazers, as religious supersti.tions go into inevitable decline in popularity.
6. You are likely more environmentally aware than your theist friends and colleagues and unlikely to fall for claims of industry and wind-bag politicians concerning the impact of man’s activities on the environment. You could no more act in an environmentally irresponsible manner because “god will keep us safe” than you could jump of a ship, believing King Neptune will keep you safe.
7. You generally have a live and let live atti.tude, but will fiercely defend any attempts by theists to thrust their views on you or your children, directly or through control of school boards, the legislature or the executive. While you are prepared to debate and argue passionately with the theist on an intellectual level, you would never wish them harm or ill will. You know you are likely to be smugly told you will “burn in hell for all eternity” for your healthy skepticism. This highlights what you despise about religion, as you would not wish a bad sunburn on another, simply because they have a different religious view to you. You have never heard of an evolutionary biologist strapping a bomb to himself and running into a church yelling “Darwin-u akbar”.
8. You likely know more about other religions than your average theist. This makes you less fearful of them and enables you to see parallels. You realize that, if you were born in India, you would have been brought up with a totally different religion. You realize that every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. They cannot all exist and you see the error all faiths make of thinking only theirs exist(s). This “rising above” the regional nature of all religions was probably instrumental in your achieving atheism.
9. You likely have a deep, genuine appreciation of the fathomless beauty and unbelievable complexity of our Universe, from the 4 nucleotides that orchestrate every aspect of you, through to the distant quasars, without having to think it was all made for you. You likely get more out of being the irrelevant ant staring up at the cosmos than you do in having to pretend that it was all made to turn in majestic black-and-white pirouette about you.
10. While you have a survival instinct, you cannot fear death in the way the theist does. You know that the whole final judgment story, where you may be sent to hell if you fail, is Dark Ages nonsense meant to keep the Church’s authority. You also know that you were dead for 13,700,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to fear (or to feel pain or discomfort) itself dies. You will not even know you are dead. Fear of death is as meaningless to you as is the fear of a vacuum, the fear of not being born. You feel a lot more secure, and indeed a deep comfort, in this knowledge, than you would in trying to yoke yourself to some quasi-hope that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.
11.You're too lazy to take responsibility and comfortably recline in your sense of superiority over those moronic religious nuts.
It is not laziness to realize that Christianity is a lie. Those who do not fall for the lies that are religion in this world ARE superior because they have the intellect to see through the lies and the courage to stand up to masses who do not have that ability.
Thanks for the great post, it really proves that Atheists have so much hate in them that they will spread the message against christians any time they can.
You're also missing the point of the article. How is a good Athiest going to sway anyone by bashing them? You're doing exactly what the author suggested Christians should not do. 🙁
@jv and lee
How is this hate or bashing?
yep...there is nothing like having a myth free mind.
Its not about bashing christians. its about learning about the truth of the myth to begin with.
Just because people are brainwashed in to believing in a lie does not make them bad.. just misinformed.
Humanity has been using mythic tales as a political tool for a long long time..
Taking the time and effort to learn the truth of mythology is well worth the search of the truth.
Read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill ... then check out the web site The Domain of Man.
The Age of Supernatural Stupidity can come to an end.. But it takes knowing the truth of the myths and why they were created and by whom....
Like the bible states.. the truth will set you free. and the truth is.. the bible is a lie.
I stopped identifying myself as a Christian a long time ago, instead I see myself as a follower of Jesus. Churches and religion have crucified Christ more than anyone else in history.
Read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill to learn just who jesus really was.
Once again CNN uses their fake religious page to bash Christians...while remaining too chicken to mention Muslims
You're missing the point entirely. I beleive you could probably replace the word "Christian" with the word "Muslim" and get the same result.
all religions were created as political tools... they are all one in the same. mind control using mythic tales.. to support a few to control the many... a Borg mind is really no mind at all.
Yeah, we "Christians" take a bad, but well deserved rap for being less than what we profess to be. The hard thing for some people to accept is that being a Christian doesn't make us perfect. We are still human, able to make choices (bad choices too) and subject to errors in judgement. A true Christian is one who disavows "RELIGION". Jesus didn't come to bring or perfect religion, He came to bring both love, sacrifice and yes a warning of His return. God does not love religion either. Religion is the habitual practice of something – Anything. To God, a good and acceptable religion is one that cares for widows and orphans. Look through the Holy Bible that most people hate and despise and you see, "Love, Loved, Loving, Lover" tens of thousands of times. He even calls Himself "Love". A good part of this love is to allow his children – that's YOU, to choose. Choose to believe in Him or not, that's your choice. That was out of love. Choose to hate or Love, that's you're choice. Choose to accept His son's offer of salvation. It's up to you. God is the god of "Pro-Choice". Everything in life is a choice. We choose to breath, move, walk, talk, work, love, give, take, kill, save. It's all a matter of choice. Exept – The consequences. You can't choose the consequences. "Christians" who choose not to love will suffer the consequences of their actions or inaction, or reactions. So be merciful – Christian or not.
Have you bashed the Muslims in an article who kill innocents and cut off heads in the name of their god? No? Maybe its because of the fear you have for that violent religion. What a hypocrite.
There's an old saying.."Sweep around your own door" Heed it G-
Simply.. wow. Everyone, Christian or not, should read this. So insiteful.
How about those "saved" individuals who turn around in their misguided attempts at "evangelization" and believe their role is to criticise and condemn anyone else they believe is still in need of salvaltion? Honestly these folks act like they have THEIR ticket to Heaven and they are so smug about it. They will tell you that unless you accept Jesus as your personal savlior, you will NOT be getting a ticket to ride! They take the most literal interpretation of the Bible possible and have no willingness to acknowledge for example that when Jesus said "no one comes to the Father except through me" what he meant was unless you live a life like mine, you do not understand God. I try to explain this but I am met with statements like, "if you believe one word of the bible you have to believe it ALL. What they mean is you have to believe their interpretation of the bible. So all you so-called "Born Again Christians" how about this, "unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you, for my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink"? Don't forget his words, "Take this all of you and eat it, for THIS IS MY BODY, which will be given up for you" and also, "Take this all of you and drink it, for THIS IS MY BLOOD, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant which will be shed for many for the forgiveness of sins". Well, well, it sounds like Jesus just gave us himself to us in the eucharist, but the born again crowd insists that what Catholics call the REAl PRESENCE of Jesus in the eucharist is nonesene. So what happened to beleving in every work of the bible folks? Please, get real you hypocrites!
The christian myth was not created to save souls.. but to save ROME.
There is a specific reason the cannibal concept is part of the christian myth.
Read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill for the details.
There is a specific reason the cannibal concept is part of the christian myth.
I can live with "not nice" but what fries many atheists about Christians is the ignorance. If you can imagine a world created in 7 days, can't you embrace scientific proof? When dark hearted men who graduate from Evangelical schools tell you to ignore science, don't you wonder why? Don't you wonder why these people can get believe in Transubstantiation and virgin births cannot come up with a way to reconcile their religion and science?