Christian jerks.

SHE. “Ugh, religious people are the worst.”
ME. “Hey. I’m a religious person. How am I ‘the worst’?”
SHE. “Oh, you’re not that religious.”
ME. “I beg to differ. I’m extremely religious. If I weren’t, I’d be a massive jerk. Now explain how I’m ‘the worst’.”

You can tell my pagan friend recently had a bad experience with a Christian, and wanted to vent. Wanted to complain how religious Christians are bigoted, narrow-minded, and judgmental.

I could start ranting about her own religious prejudices here—as many of my fellow Christians immediately would. But not today. ’Cause there’s good reason for this negative stereotype she claims for all Christians. You’ve seen it too: The Christian jerk. The person who claims they follow Jesus, but are just awful to other people. Sometimes to pagans and fellow Christians alike; sometimes just to pagans. With all the bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and judgmentalism my friend objects to… and thinks all of us are like.

I wanted to burst this stereotype, which is why I challenged her to define me by it. But she just figured I’m an exception to the rule—I’m “one of the good ones.” She’s still pretty sure religious people are the worst.

Way too many of us Christians are totally bigoted, narrow-minded, and judgmental. I don’t know the percentage of Christians who are like this; Jesus does, but he’s not told me. I will say it sometimes feels like a lot. I’ve visited churches where they’re all jerks. I’ve also visited churches where none of ’em are… at least, not that I could see; I don’t know how they behave when they’re on Reddit hiding under their screen names. In any event it’s too many, and they give antichrists a legitimate reason to despise Christians.

How do these people justify such fruitless behavior? Any way they can. Any excuse will do. Usually by preemptively condemning the people they wanna be terrible to: They’re sinners; they have it coming. God’s gonna smite them, so they’re just warning the sinners of this… or in all sorts of little ways, they’re making contributions to the smiting.

I used to be one of ’em.

No, I’m not exaggerating some minor unloving misbehaviors. I was a real a--hole, and I didn’t discriminate between pagans and Christians either. Think Ann Coulter with more swearing.

I’m definitely not that way anymore, which is why I could actually tell my friend, “How am I ‘the worst’?” and she could actually consider me “one of the good ones.” Means I must be succeeding, more or less. Yea me.

Plenty of my fellow Christians are also trying to resist such fleshly, unloving behavior. And like I said, it’s because we’re religious. We’re trying to perform the good works God laid out for us. Ep 2.10 We’re trying to love our neighbors. Lv 19.18 Trying to be fruity; trying to be kind.

Pagans have a pretty good idea Jesus teaches such things, but they also figure Christians are giant hypocrites whose “religion” is to affiliate with Christ but not really follow. You know, Christianism. Religion and irreligion is all the same to them, so of course they blame religion.

“So you’re the real Christians, and they aren’t?” she half-seriously told me.

Kinda.

Not that Jesus won’t save them; we’re saved by grace not good works. But a Christian follows Jesus, and if we legitimately follow him we’re gonna produce fruit! The Spirit’s gonna transform our character to resemble Jesus’s. We’re gonna be patient, gracious, gentle, kind, forgiving, like Jesus: We’re not gonna be jerks.

The Christian jerk doesn’t reflect Jesus’s character at all. Oh they might, in private; various people are quick to defend prominent jerkish Christians by pointing out their acts of charity, or how kind and loving they are to their family, friends, and pets. (Big deal, Jesus once pointed out; pagans do this too, so how’re we any better?) Thing is, this argument is used to dismiss how, when it really matters—when it’s vital a Christian be Christ to people who need Christ at a critical moment—they blow it. Not just the one time; even the best of us stumble once in a while. I’m talking consistently. I write of Christians who simply aren’t christlike. And they aren’t getting any better. We got too many.

Taking pride in one’s jerkishness.

When I call people out for their jerklike behavior and call it fruitless, most of ’em don’t know how to respond to me. Because nobody’s ever done this before.

Let me write that again, in italics. Nobody’s ever done this before.

A third time, in caps. NOBODYS EVER DONE THIS BEFORE.

I’m not saying nobody in the world ever rebukes fruitless behavior. My mom absolutely did with me. “Is that how a Christian’s supposed to behave?” And I had to admit it’s really not. And Mom’s hardly alone; plenty of Christian parents and mentors correct their children and disciples when they forget themselves and get jerklike. They expect better of us, and remind us Jesus likewise expects better of us.

But if your parents are sucky Christians, or your Christian mentors and “elders” aren’t all that spiritually mature… well y’might not have anyone in your life who’d even think to correct you when you get fruitless and unloving. Because they get fruitless and unloving on a regular basis—and make all the typical excuses for it.

Back when I was a young zealous Christian jerk, I was in the newspaper business. I’d write sarcastic opinion pieces for the newspaper about various issues, mocking my political opponents, trying to be funny while I slammed all the things which annoyed me. And the people of my church cheered me on. Encouraged me to keep it up. One of the associate pastors actually told me I was doing the Lord’s work.

No, they didn’t know any better. Nobody ever taught ’em better! Or did, like Mom (and the Holy Spirit), but like me, they ignored ’em as no fun, or not zealous enough. ’Cause it’s fun to be a jerk. Bullies wouldn’t bother if it didn’t feel good to smack other people around.

Popular pagan culture isn’t any better. Sometimes they rebuke jerks, like when outraged parents try to put a stop to online bullying. (Although y’notice they don’t really make a fuss till they or their kids are getting bullied.) More often we watch these jerks’ shows, or make them the protagonists of sitcoms, or elect ’em president.

Sometimes jerks even lead churches, and the church members cheer ’em on for slamming all the things they hate too. God forbid the members ever find themselves on the receiving end of their bullying pastor's ire; it's a lousy place to be, as any legalistic cult’s survivor can tell you.

How’d I snap out of this behavior? God’s grace. He put up with me long enough for me to realize the value in seriously following Jesus. As I investigated what following Jesus means, I noticed good fruit’s kinda important. So I sought that… and the Spirit purged the jerkishness out of me. Not all at once; it’s a process. It’s not entirely gone yet. Still working on it.

But at least I now know better than to revel in my awful behavior… as you’ll still see among Chriatians who warn you, “I speak fluent sarcasm,” or “This is who I am; deal with it,” or “I have zero tolerance for you bulls---,” or the various other red-flag T-shirt slogans they tweet. All of which mean, “I’m deficient in the Spirit’s fruit and proud of it.”

And a lot of people are proud of it. They sell T-shirts with these slogans on ’em, you know. They sell rather well. Christians wear ’em too. They take pride in being ornery, impatient, hostile, even shooty. They figure they’re right to be immediately angry at whatever pisses them off; it’s a righteous anger; impatience is a virtue.

It’s all over the culture, and all over Christendom. And like I said, many a Christian indulges in this behavior, and nobody rebukes ’em for it. Because they’re doing it too.

Call them on it!

Jerks aren’t gonna change unless they realize they need to. And they’re not gonna realize they need to, not gonna even think they need to, unless they’re first called out for their bad behavior.

Like most people, their self-preservation instinct is gonna kick in: “I’m not the problem; you are. You’re too sensitive. You lack a sense of humor; you can’t take a joke. You snowflake.” Whatever turns things around so they’re the good guy and we’re the uptight jerks who wanna take away all their evil fun.

Too many people fear confrontation. It makes ’em profoundly uncomfortable, so they avoid it like crazy. It’s why jerks can go for years, if not their whole lives, without any pushback: People avoid them instead of telling them to their face, “Don’t.”

But I find it works. And works really well.

If you fear confrontation, fine; try the easiest form of it, which’d be on social media. Instead of blocking or unfriending someone who’s awful to you, simply tell them they’re being awful to you. Watch what happens.

Yeah, frequently they get self-defensive and accuse us of stuff, and adopt the attitude of “F--- you if you can’t take a joke.” Doesn’t help if we’ve been a little unfruitful ourselves. But if that’s true—if you have been a little less-than-Christian in your online behavior—own it. “Yes that was wrong of me. I admit that. And this was wrong of you.” Kick the excuse of “Everybody does it, so it’s okay” right out from under them. We’re all wrong.

I’m a member of a few social media discussion groups. I like to joke discussion groups are really debate clubs, ’cause they quickly turn into argument clinics. Some people join ’em because they’re truly interested in the topics… and some already have their mind made up, and wanna pick a fight so they can defend their side. I don’t mind disagreement, but I do mind when fruitless people’s inner jerk comes out. In those cases I put the discussion on pause: We need to deal with the bad behavior.

Well they don’t wanna deal with the bad behavior. They wanna keep debating. They actually look at my objections to their behavior as a debate tactic: “You’re not dealing with the real issue.” No; I’m dealing with the more important issue: Their lack of self-control. I’m not indulging their immaturity.

Some discussion group leaders think the very same way. Others don’t moderate their groups at all… at least not until someone does something which offends them personally. Social media has all sorts. But either way, I’m not gonna wait till a moderator steps in: I’m gonna speak up. As should we all. “Your behavior isn’t appropriate. Stop or I’m leaving.”

This is much easier to do on social media, than in real-life situations. When you’ve got a jerk in the workplace, at school, at home, at church, it’s not always so easy to step away. Sometimes we do need to call in a moderator. Sometimes there isn’t one; if your boss, the pastor, or your parents are the jerks, what’re you gonna do? (In these cases, of course stepping away isn’t easy. But you gotta. Start making arrangements.)

Jerks aren’t gonna change their behavior until they get enough pushback. Until it’s no longer amusing: “Ha-ha, look what an uncompromising jerk I am.” And for Christians, enough of it might be what finally gets ’em to listen to the Holy Spirit and repent.

As for your own behavior: You know better. Don’t be a dick. Don’t give pagans any more ammunition to complain, “Religious people are the worst.” Be better than that. Be like Jesus.