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. RebeccaH

    Thank you. Nice article – well said.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  2. Shawn Irwin

    They are all a bunch of provincialists and posers with skeletons in their closet.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Hesavlie

      That's wishful thinking. I myself, for instance, am a forgiven and radically changed sinner. We all of us are sinners. The difference is I have chosen to admit it, and you have not. Your choice is what sends you to hell. Jesus gives life abundant now and then. He warns however, reject Him now, and He will reject you then.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  3. Sabrina Walker

    The thing that's turned me off about evangelicals is the serious lack of contrition and apology. I hear them say that they've received divine forgiveness, and yet, they seem so unwilling to forgive – or seek forgiveness from their fellow man.

    A co-worker of mine (who obviously didn't know it was me behind the wheel) sped up to prevent me from merging over. I had my signal on; I had plenty of room; and I needed to move over to turn into the work lot. But she chose to speed up so rapidly that she nearly rear-ended me. When we got into the lot, I quietly said, "Please don't try to keep people from merging, especially when you see they've got their signal on. We could've had an accident." She replied, "I didn't know it was you, baby. You know how these drivers is." No apology. No pledge to change. Just regret that she had done it to someone who actually knew her. And yes ... she's the co-worker with religious paraphernalia in her cube, and a Bible verse in her Outlook signature.

    It makes me sad. I am so disappointed that there's a whole swath of Americans who believe one thing, but very firmly do another. I have respect for the author of this piece for pointing it out. More Christians need to. No, you're not perfect, but you're called upon to be different, better, nice. Please, put that into practice. Be kind, be contrite. Change.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Hesavlie

      Your problem is staring back at you in the mirror. When you stand before God, are you really going to point the finger at someone else when he asks why you rejected Christ?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • Sabrina Walker

      Hesalvie, my rejection of religion has nothing whatsoever to do with the behavior of evangelicals. I came to the realization of my agnosticism quite on my own, and was very surprised by it. But I will tell you: your response to me highlights my point exactly. There's an unwillingness to change, to forgive, to improve. Instead, there's a resort to the questioning the questioner.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • jb

      Hesavlie, your position rests on the fact that their is a God and that we will one day stand before this individual. I do not believe a God exists, so I am not worried about standing before this non-existent individual to answer for anything. I live a good and moral life without fear of having to answer to anyone but myself and those who I choose to surround myself with. To answer your question though, regardless of how idiotic it is, I will blame no one but myself for the choices I have made in life.

      February 10, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  4. MormonChristian

    Christ taught us to love even our enemies and forgive all. He only condemned the hypocrites – especially the overzealous who twisted the scriptures to support their self-serving ways. Those professing to follow Christ should know better.

    But let's not throw out the core messages of Christianity because some are not practicing them. Would be interesting to see how many people have been killed in the name of other ideologies that are atheist based. The bloodiest chapters in our history were led by godless men i.e. Mao, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      And he especially loved those polygamous Mormon boys, you betcha.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      Speaking of bloody violence – what was the deal with the designated Mormon assassins who carried out murderous missions of blood atonement for Brigham Young?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Damocles

      Oh, hey, what a truly original thought! Blah, blah, blah atheist.... blah, blah, blah Pol Pot et all.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Oliver Cowderey

      Mormons aren't Christian there're Mormons. I was born and raised a Mormon, with polygamist great-grand parents and all. We were always taught that we, the members of the Church were Mormons not Christians. Today, it's the many faces of Mormonism that tries to claim it's Christian, only because its politically correct to do so.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • centeredpiece

      Bingo! MormonChristian. You make great points. To me, it's very annoying when Christians don't live up to Christ's teaching – we should know better. But too many people go way to far and attribute all that is bad in this world to Christians, ignoring completely what you point out – many (if not most) of the horrible wars mankind has engaged in were fought, not in the name of Christianity, but in the name of communism.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  5. N&W 1000

    IF you really want to see some hate Tweeted, have Chick Fil A sponsor another Traditional Marriage Day.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      You mean another Chick-fil-a Hate Fest?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Good job. Now tweet that and let's get it started up.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • JRob

      Yea, It's a shame a private, non-publicly traded company in America can still make decisions on where they stand. I mean, Russia and China don't allow these things so why should we?

      February 10, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Hammerdown

      Having a traditional marriage day was fine.
      They had been funneling LARGE amounts of cash to HATE groups.
      You too stupid to see the difference ?

      February 10, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Zeibodique

      The #1 cause for divorce is marriage, so why not let ALL people share the tradition?

      February 10, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
  6. Stephen Grasser

    Maybe there should be a new religion called "American Christianity". Most of the other Christians in the ROTW (Rest of the World) proselytize by example, rather than by their mouths. And they can reconcile scientific facts with their Christian beliefs. I feel that a lot of the evangelical movement is based on peer pressure, rather than personal belief.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  7. stevie68a

    christianity is really about hate. It wears a cloak of "love". Just your usual wolf-in-sheep's clothing. This is a New Age, and
    people are finally becoming aware of the fact that religion is a lie.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • centeredpiece

      Sorry you seem to have met so many haters. Christianity is NOT about hate, but about love. Unfortunately human beings are not perfect and so the problems we see in the rest of society occur among believers as well.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  8. John

    I can tell John Dickerson is young, inexperient and the fact that he wrote a book doens't make him an expert. I can write a book about the same topic and with a total different poin of view. The media select whoever they want and sadly they never show the people who disagree. They just show what they want to show.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Tomadzo

      This is exactly what the author was talking about. I understand criticism when it is steeped in actual opinion and put forth in a srtaightforward manner. Your response had no actual specific crticism of the opinion piece and was hidden in a derogatory post.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Rev Foistus Uponyou

      You just did.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  9. I Am God.

    Great article. Was wondering when something like this would come out.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:40 am |
  10. Noel Williams www.prhayz.com

    Reblogged this on This Blogging Thing and commented:
    " Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

    February 10, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  11. N&W 1000

    CNN only goes out and digs up the people who will critique the other side, best described as saps, or dupes, but, there are many very, very nasty hateful people on our side too.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  12. Darwin was wrong

    The new atheist CULT with Dawkins as their leader believes a lighting bolt struck a mud puddle and POOF!!! the earth appeared. They believe a frog can turn into a prince!! They are stuck back in the 1850's and refuse to move on. Blacks and other s@v@ge races are less evolved in their book!! Hitler got his philosophy from Darwinian evolution. You stupid communist idiots are stupid.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Deist for POS

      Be nice. Thanks for showing what an ignorant, hateful, troll is all about, you prove the authors point.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Damocles

      I would respond, but I'm laughing too hard.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • JJ

      Thanks for proving the article correct with your Christian rant. Now go out and grow a brain.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • the AnViL

      here we have another prime example of idiocy at work.

      the uneducated, delusional masses that propagate this form of ignorance literally retard the rest of humanity.

      those of you who believe in an imaginary man in the sky should be severely restricted – so as to reduce the harm you do to the rest of humanity.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • Leif

      I don't agree with any of you.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • dah dah dah doooo

      HItler also called his best nazis "good conservatives"

      February 10, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • dah dah dah doooo

      Darwin was WRONG..... some of us have not evolved from being a monkey

      February 10, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • Leeroy

      Perfect example of the way the way we shouldn't be. Makes the author's point perfectly. 🙂

      February 10, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Rev Foistus Uponyou

      God created man from dirt.
      Darwin was right, you are proof.

      February 10, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  13. the AnViL

    monotheistic religions are predicate on ignorance, bigotry, hate, division, and racism.

    it is impossible for xians to be "nice" – as they're operating on ancient middle eastern peasant mythologies. there's nothing nice about any of it.

    tolerance of religious idiocy has to end... and it is.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  14. Noneya

    Also, John 13: 34-35 tells us that Christians would be identified by the love they demonstrate (not just talk about). Finally, at Matthew 22: 36-40s, Jesus tells us that the most important law (behind loving God) is loving our neighbors. He said the rest of the laws have no value if those two are not upheld.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  15. Supit

    You should be embarrassed to believe in something that is completely made up. Mankind is embarrassed for you!!!

    February 10, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Leif

      I am embarrassed by those who fail to see any merit in the moral philosophy of those with whom they disagree.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • the AnViL

      the moral philosophy in the bible and the koran is based on division and bigotry. xians and muslims are too ignorant, blind, stupid, and brainwashed to ever see this clearly.

      those of you who propagate this garbage are the true force of darkness on this planet.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Leif

      Have you read the Gospels? I doubt it. I don't believe in God, but I do believe in the wisdom of Jesus. And I do believe that this world could use a little more morality.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  16. JD

    The recent election showed hatred in a lot of people that called themselves Christians! Even this argument with the NRA, has produced the same!

    February 10, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

      Fears and insecurity drive the same "Christians" who hoard guns. Fear of death, fear of the boogy man, fear of their own shadow. LOL – Good luck with the guns at the Pearly Gates.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  17. Meki60

    Muslims are garbage, Christians are good.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • the AnViL

      xians are no different than muslims.

      they're both equally as delusional, bigoted, racist, retarded, and full of hate.

      monotheism is destructive at its core.

      you're a prime example of that idiocy.

      you and those like you are retarding all of humanity.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  18. Jeremy

    Well said.

    He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

    February 10, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  19. Rudedog

    A "Christian" at work only prayed when he had an audience. He got caught stealing money from a fundraiser to cover funeral costs for his niece. He stole the tips we left for the delivery guy who brought us lunch, for years.
    1.000 aetheists could do no larger harm to Christianity, than one FAKE Christian.

    February 10, 2013 at 8:35 am |
  20. lolCAT2000

    When is someone going to write an article about Dawkins calling people "idiots" and "morons"?

    February 10, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • saggyroy

      First you have to prove that the people he calls idiots and morons, are not idiots and morons.

      February 10, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • jfkman

      Where have you been? Xtians complain about everything that disputes their fallacious beliefs. He forcefully points out the irrationality of believing in something for which there is and never was any proof. He does this in a very measured way. Now, PZ Myers will be much harsher in HIS approach...

      February 10, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • dah dah dah doooo

      what Dawkins does is highly refined thought process using scientific method... what christianity does is gossip and control... two totally different ways of thinking. are we really considering stopping christians from stating that non believers will spend eternity burning in a lake of fire... or whatever fire and brimestone final resolution they gather from the bible.

      the 1705 Virginia slave code stated .... " anyone migrating to america who was not a christian in their home land should be considered property"... good law if you want to control people

      February 10, 2013 at 8:47 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.