Christians sometimes become complete morons on the Internet. Everyone, for that matter, has the potential to become a moron on the internet, but Christians are risking more than the average person by putting on the persona of idiocy. Like it or not, Christianity is a brand. I’m not saying Jesus is a brand — most people will tell you, no matter what their social or religious stripe, that they are more than cool with Jesus. Jesus is still alright with them. Jesus isn’t the problem. As Ghandi said, “I love your Christ. It’s that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
StuffChristiansLike blogger Jonathan Acuff posted an article on CNN about why so many Christians are jerks online. Reading the comments to that article, which was a chastening bit of writing (for me, because I’ve been a Christian jerk online, at times), though, seems to prove his point rather than showing one bit of self-reflection on the part of the article-reading-Christians. They all pointed out that there is more hate directed AT Christians by those online, than there are Christians directing hate at anyone else. Seems like some Christians in the U.S. have a bee in their bonnet and don’t remember to turn that other cheek.
I lead Beta (our Tuesday night Bible Study). This week, we were reading the section of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe that recounts how Lucy, upon returning from Narnia the 2nd time, is still mercilessly persecuted for her failure to back down from the truth of what she’s experienced. I asked the participants if they’ve ever been really persecuted for their Christianity. To a person, they said “no.” We have it easy as USian Christians. We have been blessed in that whenever the church is open, we can enter in to worship or seek help or counseling and gather together. Our students can pray around the flag pole. They can pray in class. Just because a teacher in a public school cannot lead students in prayer (and I’m personally happy about that – I don’t want any state authority telling my children how to worship), doesn’t mean that there is no prayer in schools.
Having people not like us because we are Christians isn’t persecution — it’s fulfillment of prophecy. Mark 13:13, Luke 21:17, Matthew 10:22 “All men will hate you because of me…” I believe some Christians are trying to MAKE all wo/men hate us. Or, it gives them leave to be jerks online (and in person) because we’re going to be inevitably despised. We bring it on ourselves. We create a zero tolerance zone for the BIG sins – don’t come in this church with your adultery or fornication or murder- but we don’t love one another enough to welcome them. We expect grace where we’ve offered none. That doesn’t work as a selling point for Christianity, though. Not one bit.
I’ve been horrified by the amount of gay teen suicides, of late. One incident happened right in my area of town. He was a middle schooler, 13-years-old. He was teased at school, by everyone, Christians included. He was knocked down, kicked around and mercelessly pursued by bullies. I don’t care what your feelings are on homosexuality, if you are a Christian, persecuting others isn’t ok. Slandering others for what we perceive to be their sins doesn’t make people want to join a group of reformed sinners who are publically cannibalizing the reputations of others.
I’ve seen public debate forums go from heated to hostile because of this. A Christian will believe that the Bible’s teaching on a matter is self-evident, and post a passage of Scripture that they think “proves” that something (you name it) is a horrible, vile, sin. Then, they will ask some innocuous question, like “What do you think about this?” And people start piling on to say that the Bible is not an authority for them. They are agnostic, atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish (if from the NT) or other, and so see the Bible as literature, platitudes, fiction or fantasy. As a friend pointed out to me last night, Christians that post like this have it backward. They want others to clean up their act and then will automatically accept the authority of Christ. Really, the way it goes is, we come to Christ and the Holy Spirit convicts us of our wrongdoings and then, we ask forgiveness for our sins and struggle with Christ’s help to erradicate that sinful hold on our lives.
We don’t need to be so concerned with the speck in our brother’s eye as we should be with that 2×4 protruding from our own. What being the Christian spammer, Christian troll, Chrisitan jerkwad online, does, is convince all those non-Christians that they were right about the Christian brand. It really is all about pointing out others’ flaws while ignoring our own sins (like not visiting those in prison, clothing the needy, feeding the poor, or washing the lepers) If you claim to be a Christian, you’re a marketing tool for the brand that is Christianity. Jesus polls great. His PR is just fine. His work and worth speak for themselves. Christianity, as an organized non-profit, unfortunately, has to streamline the message. We need to decide whether we want our public face to be “Christ-centered” or “hypocritical jerks with hypochondrial persecution complex.” I prefer the former, as it’s much more iconic and easier to say, but I worry that our lasting reputation has been irreperably damaged by the latter.