The Very Worst Christians

Hello! I hope you all had a joyful and fun-filled Christmas. I sure did, and I am still tired from the last few days.

Last Thursday on Modern Reject, I wrote a piece asking if there really is a war on Christmas. I linked to an atheist blog and the comments that followed were divisive, to say the least.

The comments on the post ranged from discussion of the question I originally posed, to what atheists really believe, to the historical evidence of Jesus’ existence. I was tired by the end of it all, and so were others, I’m sure.

The questions and issued raised got me thinking, though. Why is it that so many people–atheists included–have such skewed perceptions of Christians? One commenter, for instance, compared me  to an Islamic-terrorists because I said that I view myself as Christian first before viewing myself as an American. He called that “dangerous.”

I have felt defeated in the past when listening to people describe Christians. They call them brainwashed, delusional, or flat out stupid for believing in God.

But what is it about Christians that others find so insulting, so unnerving, and even dangerous? Why do some people think Christians are the very worst? Are you one of the very worst Christians?

It is easy for my to take offense when people insult my faith or my God. I can feel my blood pressure rise and my neck stiffen. I take it personally. I feel as though they are not only attacking  Christianity, but me.

But then I am reminded of these words:

For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?…Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 2Corinthians 6:14-15

We can only share so much with an unbeliever. We can never  be in fellowship with unbelievers. We can of course have relationship, but not fellowship.

As soon as we accept Christ, there is an automatic divide created between the believer and the unbeliever–a spiritual divide. I have seen this in my own family, as I am the only Christian within my family.

Since we know that there is a lack of fellowship between believers and unbelievers, does that explain why many unbelievers genuinely dislike Christians? Why do so many people find Christians to be unattractive?

In part, our lack of fellowship, explains why unbelievers sometimes dislike Christians. They are convicted by the Light. They find the name of Jesus to be offensive. Christ said, “Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”

However, Christians are not always the best representation of Christ, and many times the furthest thing from it. Sure, our culture plays a part. The media stereotypes Christians. We often hear the worst news stories about Christians–the ultra-radical, or extreme sect of Christianity that gives other believers a bad name.

However, it is Christians themselves who are very much responsible for the stereotypes that exist. We judge and condemn. We point fingers and lay blame. We are hypocritical, rude, clique-y, and irresponsible with the Gospel.

We are often times poor examples of Christ, and more like examples of ourselves and those around us.

But there is more… the devil is convincing. Any Christian who does not believe in the influence or destructive nature of our enemy is not walking in Truth. He is very real and set out to destroy us.

One of the easiest ways to render Christians ineffective is to convince unbelievers that we are. Convincing unbelievers that Christians are brainwashed, idiotic, hypocritical weirdos is effective. The enemy is to blame and so are we.

Yet, the responsibility lies with each and every Christian to show love in truth and grace. We do not have the luxury of leisurely living our Christian life for ourselves only. That is not the Gospel.

I was convicted over the last few days of responding to many comments from atheists. I was not convicted by their arguments. I was, however, stirred that within my everyday ordinary life–do I look different enough? Or do I look just like those other Christians–the very worst Christians?

Thankfully, transforming into the image and likeness of Christ is a lifelong process, not an overnight one. I just wish those who do not know Christ realized the same thing.

Why do you think believers get such a bad rep? What do you see Christians doing, or not doing, that causes the most harm in your opinion? Who really are the very worst Christians?

20 thoughts on “The Very Worst Christians”

  1. Nicole,

    Do you think it’s also a difference in calling – some Christians are called to be missionaries to culture and so are equipped for that task and for the relationships they will face in that, whereas others are called to holiness and set-apartness from the world and so their task is different? I’m cautious of one-size-fits-all statements on what Christians are called to be, as although there are some core beliefs, even those are interpreted differently.

    That’s a genuine question, not just a rhetorical one – any thoughts, people?

    1. Tom,

      I think that is a very thoughtful and interesting question. My answer is not too different from Justin’s.

      The same verse came to my mind….”in the world, but not of it.” That applies equally to all believers.

      I think that our particular gifting comes into play. I have friends who have the gift of evagelism. They operate much differently than I. They can perceive a situation as a perfect opportunity to share Christ. They find arrows pointing to God in all conversations.

      The temptation for an evangelist is more so, I think, to be in the world, but only because they are compelled to share.

      Again though, I think the Bible is clear and does not discriminate between who should be making disciples or engaging the culture.

      I believe our personal testimonies play a part as well. I have a rough past, filled with sex, drugs, lies, etc. I may be more received witnessing to someone who has a similar past. However, I should still be able to display holiness and righteousness now.

      Christ said “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves..” I think this verse is fascinating and I think of it often. There is a balance and yet dichotomy there. Jesus displayed it…and I’m still learning.

      Great question Tom. Where do you stand?

      1. Nicole, I think that at least in my case (as a Youth Worker) I actively need to be engaging with culture. With the stuff that my young people are listening to and watching as well as the darker elements of culture – the things that erode self-esteem or shape perspective or lead people towards pornography. I majored in English at university and so have spent a long time looking at methods of communication, and I feel able to detach myself from content that some people find offensive.

        But I have other friends who believe that this stuff is harmful and find it a stumbling-block, and so they avoid it. I acknowledge it as harmful too, but my response to it is different – because it doesn’t affect me in the same way as others. In the end, though, I subscribe to Paul in Romans when he talks about eating meat, and if his eating meat causes another to sin he’ll never eat meat again. I don’t want to lead others into places where they’ll stumble, but I believe that this is who God called me to be. And I think I’ll stick to that, even if others ultimately disagree with it.

        I’m with you on the value of personal testimony. I’m of the opinion that we are shaped by culture and God’s desire for us is redemption and so we need to be in culture to redeem it. But like I say, I respect others who differ from me on that…

  2. I think we gave ourselves a bad rep. David Kinnaman’s book UnChristian is a big slap in the face, in a good way. If you haven’t read it, you need to. They took pools of non-believers and asked what they thought of Christians and the results are disturbing. The top descriptors are sheltered, anti-homosexual, too political, that we only care about converting people, and hypocritical. It gives the stats, why people think that, and ways that we can go about to change it. Its really eye opening book.

    If you want to hear my thoughts on Nicole’s blog, i literally just wrote on my own right before i read this. So instead of just re-stating it, just click on my name and it will bring you to it.

    Tom, i think you have a good point. I don’t think there is a one size fits all things, but we are supposed to be as Paul says, in the world but not of it. He used Greek poems and turned them in ways to point people to Christ. Everyone has a different skill set and their part in being “set apart”. I am a pastor. I have a lot of tattoos. I am in and apart of the culture (at least i try) and i try to act in a way that shows Jesus (at least i try). I think there are people who are supposed to stand out culturally and some to stand out in holiness and to be set apart from all of it. Either way it’s under the overall theme of being in but not of the world. All are called to be set apart in some way in order to be asked the question, “why are you doing this?” and then you can explain why, because you are Christian.

    Nicole, the last post was intense. I think you handled it well. Keep doing what you are doing.

  3. Nicole, you say:

    “One commenter, for instance, compared me to an Islamic-terrorists because I said that I view myself as Christian first before viewing myself as an American. He called that “dangerous.”

    Let’s be fair, Nicole. I did not compare you to an Islamic terrorist. If you really dispute that, how about quoting my passage in full and intact and letting your readers decide for themselves. I posted on your original blog to let people see that atheists in no way wish to interfere with anyone’s celebration of Christmas. I did point out that the Muslims who perpetrated 9/11 considered themselves good Muslims acting on the instructions from their holy book. I added that, according to the Bible, whole nations were wiped out in the name of the God of Abraham, something which followers of that god have never repudiated, by the way. I think it’s reasonable to find that scary. What is dangerous is religious fanaticism, whether Muslim or Christian.

    My worry about those who state that they are Christians first and Americans second is one that non-religious Americans might well be justified in feeling, given the experience with the religious zealots in the colonies before our U.S. Constitution remedied the problem of church mixing with state power. More and more frequently, Christians in blogs like yours on “stealing Christmas” are responding to any disagreement with their pronouncements and assertions as an attack on them. By itself, this isn’t necessarily alarming; merely a bit paranoid, perhaps. But it isn’t happening in a vacuum. At the same time, Christians like U.S. Representative Michelle Bachman and a number of others of her fundamentalist persuasion are seeking political power to use on behalf of their Christian beliefs (see below for a partial list of such governors and legislators)

    These Christian fundamentalists are leading out in openly advocating that the U.S. Constitution’s “Establishment Clause” barrier between church and state either does not or should not exist. Given the American colonial experience, where townspeople were put in stocks for minor violations of the Sabbath, it is not paranoid but historically realistic to fear what might happen to the right of people like me to disagree with Christian assertions if those seeking political power to use in furtherance of their Christian agenda get that power. Indeed, many good Christian people I know would join me in deploring that possibility, but instead, you once again take offense. That prickliness you keep displaying does not ease my worries about people who put their “faith” above their nation or my fears of what such people might do to the U.S. Constitution, given a chance, if they thought it was on behalf of their Christian “higher calling.”

    And before this gets any more absurd, can we please be clear, Nicole, that I don’t believe that you, personally, are about to take over the U.S. Government and punish non-Christian speech or behavior. I simply believe that the attitude that one’s religion takes precedence over one’s country can, indeed, be dangerous for the reasons I’ve just explicitly stated. I hope the gist of my concern is clear to you now. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it, and you are free to disagree, of course, but that’s what I was saying, not that you are like an Islamic terrorist.

    1. Steven,
      Your points are well taken, but to be clear, you called my identification as a Christian first “alarming” and then proceeded to explain the attacks on 9/11 as being committed by individuals, who saw themselves as holy and just.

      To be fair you said:

      “As far as that goes, I think it is important for Islam and everyone else to acknowledge that the men who perpetrated 9/11 considered themselves to be the very best of Muslims, acting on their holy texts as they understand them. And in so doing, we should also acknowledge that, according to the Christian holy texts, whole peoples were wiped from the face of the earth in the name of the same God of Abraham that Christians now worship.”

      You referenced my identification as a believer first, then Muslim terrorists, and finally Christian scripture describing the annihilation of many people.

      I dare say, it is quite obvious that you were attempting to link me (or the average Christian in America who identifies themselves as a believer first and foremost) with radical-Islam.

      I don’t think (or rather I hope) that, like you stated here, that you do not actually think I am going to fly a plane into a building, but the comparison was drawn. I think even linking the two in the same sentence, however loosely, is highly irresponsible.

      Islam is opposed to American ideals and values. Despite what many might think, Christianity is not. I believe in freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. My faith governs my actions, but so does reason and rationality. Faith is not void of either. Christ was not a babbling idiot. He exercised reason and critical thinking, yet still displayed the love of and love for God.

      I could argue just as easily that the secular Left in America is just as hell-bent on establishing their own brand of “religion” on our nation, as well. They campaign, finance, and lobby endlessly to interject their policies and beliefs into mainstream America.

      As a side note–I had stated earlier to Ray however, that I have great issue with Christians being so closely aligned with the Republican party. People identify believers more as red than as Christ-like.

      Lastly, I do not wish to enter into a discussion of Islam vs. Christianity, or the like. I acknowledge your point. However, I feel that the comparison was made, again,however loosely and I find issue with that.

      Steven, thank you for taking the time to volley with me here. It is appreciated and I respect your willingness to do so.

      1. I always find the argument between the Islam 9/11 terrorist and Christians to be a very strange comparison. In Islam- their “holy book” IS radical. Those practicing that are NOT radical, are not actually following what the Quran says.

        When you find “Christian” radicals- they are those that have taken the Bible, and twisted it. Jesus was very radical, but radical in love, not hate.

  4. In any group, it is the loud, extreme, vocal minority that gets the attention. Most Christians, just as any other practitioner of any faith goes about life and tries to make things work each day. Those kinds of Christians don’t make the news. The ones who do are the ones who pull their kids out of school because they believe that Jesus had a pet Velociraptor, or the lovable Westboro Baptists, who’s main website is “” They are the ones who make the news, making life difficult for the rest of us.

    1. Joey,


      I also often think though of something a friend once said to me…

      “What if I (you) are the only believer someone ever knows?” Which can easily happen these days.

      I’m no crazy hate-filled Westboro Baptist, but am I always reflecting Christ?

      Of course, I’m not. I fail daily. I think though that the times I have shown the most love and reflected Christ the most fully, is when I don’t pretend to be anything but imperfect.

      Humility and recognition of my sins is what drew me to Christ and amazingly, what I have witnessed, draws people to Christ still.

  5. Nicole,

    Great discussion.

    We would do well to remember that Jesus seems really to have believed that his coming (and proclamation) was Good News. Is the Gospel divisive? Yes. Can it be offensive? Sure. But we would do well to look at the Scriptures to see HOW it divides and WHOM it offends.

    It ought to scare us that the good religious people were most offended by (and least likely to follow) Jesus. Even pagan Roman occupiers were more likely to come to Jesus than Sadducees and scribes.

    If what we’re proclaiming isn’t good news to the poor, captive, oppressed and prisoners, then it’s probably not the Gospel (per Luke 4). If our ‘gospel’ only props up the establishment and encourages unjust institutions (including churches), then it’s not the Gospel.

    In my experience, MOST non-Christians that don’t like Christians not because they’re offended by the Gospel, but (as unChristian points out – shout-out to Justin) because Christians are complicit in social injustice and using Jesus and the Gospel to prop up their abusive and decidedly non-Christian lifestyles and behaviors (as you rightly point out).

    To answer your questions, I think that Christians spend WAY to much time creating rules and systems that maintain a holy identity (Pharisees, what?!), rather than trusting in the transforming power of the Spirit to live lives marked by resurrection. If we actually focused on God, pursued God and quit worrying so much about what the ‘world’ is doing (a.k.a. trying to kill Christmas), we might actually draw people to us the way Jesus did. They would see that the way of Christ, the way of the Cross and Empty Tomb, actually IS Good News.

    1. Jr.,
      You nailed it! Love your response. What a great point to bring up, that Jesus offended the religious. I also especially love this: “If our ‘gospel’ only props up the establishment and encourages unjust institutions (including churches), then it’s not the Gospel.”

      Ka-blam. I agree too that believers are often consumed with forming and maintaining rules and systems, programs and plans, instead of living lives transformed by the Spirit and the power of the resurrection. I have a post coming up on this very topic.

      Thanks Jr. for the great points.

  6. Nicole, I don’t know what else to say except that I did not mean what you say I meant. The terrorist is an extreme, fanatical case of a person putting his religion above everything else. That is all I meant to say. If there is any real doubt in your mind, then let me say it plainly: I do not think you are like a Muslim terrorist. To be like them, you’d have to blow yourself up to kill unbelievers and I don’t think you’re ready to do that. Just maybe to smack a pie in our faces, no?

    I do think that putting church above country will inevitably bring some people closer to fanaticism. Historically, church-above-government is what got some of the American colonies off to such a bad start, and I would hate to see that kind of mind-set creeping back into our society. The Constitution, thanks to the wisdom of our founding fathers, took care of that problem by making church and state separate entities. I do worry when people say their religious beliefs take precedence over the government established and maintained by the Constitution. That wonderful document protects us all and gives us our freedom to worship as we please or not to worship at all.

    The burden I have, and the reason I took time out from my novel-writing to comment on your blog is that, every Christmas, I’m seeing renewed divisiveness between religious and non-religious citizens. It’s not hard to guess where some of this comes from, and I don’t just mean certain commentators at Fox News. Having been a devout Christian, I am well aware of how atheists were portrayed to me when I was a church-going Christian. In those days I was afraid of atheists, repelled at the very thought of them, and had an extremely low opinion of them because of the things I was told about them. I was warned to have nothing to do with them, that they were pawns of the devil or, worse, his instruments.

    For Christians who wish to believe that non-believers are awful people (or even simply inferior in important ways) I guess there may be no solution to the problem of this kind of divisiveness between citizens. You can’t both believe that people are evil and that they can be just regular people like you, except with a difference of opinion. I can say, having been both a devout Christian and a non-believer, that I’m pretty much the same guy to my friends and family. While it is true that some of my friends from when I was a Christian have dropped me (or have brushed off my attempts to get back in touch), I still have many good and dear Christian friends. I still believe in being good to my fellow man. I still dislike unfairness of any kind and I’m for the underdog against the powerful. I love animals and am inconsolable when one of my cats dies. Now that I’m in my sixties and more sentimental, I tear up at weddings when people make a lifetime commitment to each other. I think that’s one of the most beautiful things a human being can do. I’ve been married to my own wife for 41 years and would run into a burning building for her. Not only am I not bitter against religion, I would not have met my wife, the love of my life, if we had not both been Christians at that time. Mind, I’m not saying I’m perfect, any more than any other person is perfect, but I try to do good wherever I can and to atone for wrongs I have done.

    In that spirit, if you truly believed I was calling you a terrorist, I’m very sorry. Please accept my apology.

    I didn’t post on your blog to “make trouble” but because I have a burden about separation of church and state (just one of the many things about me that did not change when I went from devout Christian to non-believer.) I feel certain that the right to worship as one pleases in this country, at Christmas or any other time, is inextricably tied to the right to not worship (which might be expressed in something so small as the right to say “happy holidays” rather than “merry Christmas” without being labeled an attacker of Christianity). The moment the separation of church and state breaks down, it will not merely set Christians against unbelievers but against other believers, be they Jews, Muslims, or the Episcopalians against the Fundamentalists, or the Catholics against the Protestants. (I’m old enough to remember when the candidacy of John F. Kennedy alarmed non-Catholic Christians for fear that he would, as president, favor Catholics over Protestants.) If the wall of separation between church and state is eroded or broken down, the result will not be a struggle between good and evil, but between many people, the good, the bad and the ugly, all striving to be the ones whose belief-system comes out on top. All others will suffer a loss of freedom if this ever happens. Criticisms of non-believers around Christmas time is divisive in this same way. If I ever catch any atheist friend of mine criticizing religious people for celebrating as they see fit, I’ll stand up for the religious.

    That’s really all I want to leave with your readers. If you would prefer I not post on your blogs any more, I will certainly respect your wishes. As I have said before, I do wish you well, and the same to everyone else on this blog.

    1. I just had a thought after reading your comment. If we look at being a Christian as focusing on beliefs and morals before the ‘religion’ or church aspect, does this change things? For example, if I place being a good person (trying to…), loving God, not being judgmental, following guidelines (such as the 10 commandments) above being an American, doesn’t that change the perspective? However, if I place going to church, performing rituals, and being rigid in my spiritual stance above being an American, perhaps that does allow for issues in our country.

      I am a follower of Jesus first and an American second. Do I love my country, yes, but I love my God more. Does that mean that I don’t care about my fellow citizens, definitely not. I firmly believe that our country is better because we have freedom of ‘religion’ and are not persecuted for our beliefs. As such, for most (non-radical) Christians, I see no harm in placing God first.

      What do you think of that clarification? All are welcome to respond…

  7. I view myself as a Christian first before an American too. I don’t see why that is a bad thing or a dangerous thing. Every person is equal and Jesus calls us to love everyone. Nowhere does it say, ‘only Americans make it into heaven’ or ‘only treat Americans the way Jesus would treat people because the rest of the world is wrong’. When Jesus returns, countries are not going to exist anymore.
    I take offense to people insulting my faith because I know how much God has forgiven me and healed me. I have experienced personally how much he loves me. My blood pressure rises and my neck stiffens because I definitely take it personally. I feel as though they are not only attacking Christianity, but me, and Jesus.
    I have been told that Christians often have this mentality that they are better than everyone else. I have actually witnessed this while being a Christian while on the ASU campus. The way these “Christians” were talking was rude and judgmental. I have heard Christians complain, tell someone off, gossip, and then think all of these actions are funny, yet they turn around and judge those who do the same thing. I can imagine why prebelievers would have such opinions and beliefs about Christians.

  8. The worst Christians I’ve seen are the ones who judge others for their actions- specifically “sinning” non-Christians, while they, who are professing “christians” openly sin against God and show no remorse or conviction about their actions. I find that going around telling Non-Christians all the ways that they’re sinning is NOT a way to “win” people to Christ and leaves Christians wide open for being called out on their hypocrisy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *