O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

Are Christians Jerks?

Christ Covenant Church in Beaumont, Texas, has been making headlines in recent weeks with a new billboard along Interstate 10.

It says “What a bunch of jerks!” then lists the church’s website.


According to the pastor, the sign is promoting an October sermon series about the teachings of Jesus that the church often ignores. “How do we tell this community that we want to be different? This is like our mea culpa,” Chris Beard, the church’s lead minister, told the Houston Chronicle. “We know we’ve failed.”


Here’s how Christ Covenant explains it on their website:

The church has failed. That’s right; we’ve messed up, big time. The church was SUPPOSED to be a reflection of the God it claimed to serve. The church was SUPPOSED to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. But, for the most part, the church has failed.

Our failure has left a bad taste in people’s mouths. Our mistakes have led to a lack of credibility. Our messes have caused people to seek answers for this life elsewhere. And really, who could blame people for giving up on the church? Gandhi had a very good point when he said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”


What a bunch of jerks. Prideful, hypocritical, selfish, judgmental jerks.

The site goes on to say that the first step in turning from this jerkiness is to own up to the behavior and admit the hypocrisy, selfishness, and unforgiveness that has caused the world to view Christians as jerks. Because when a church stops acting like jerks and instead acts like Jesus, “great things can happen.”

From an advertising perspective, I’d say the sign is a success. If it’s goal is to 1) capture your attention and then 2) get you to visit its website to discover what it’s talking about, then consider that accomplished. Had I driven by this billboard you can bet I would have taken notice of the sign and looked it up.


From a cultural critic’s perspective, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I’m impressed by the blatant honesty of it. It’s rare that churches — of whatever size (and Christ Covenant, at 150 members, is fairly small) — own up to being failures as followers of Jesus, especially in a corporate sense.

But on the other hand, there’s a disingenuous quality to it. Because jerkiness is completely subjective. Back in 1st-century Galilee, the outcasts loved Jesus because he accepted them. The Pharisees, though? They probably thought he was a jerk. So did other Jewish and Roman rulers who, you know, crucified him.

If we truly lived like Jesus today, we’d certainly show a much deeper capacity to care for the poor, forgive sinners, and show radical acceptance of outsiders. But you can be sure that we’d have to be jerks, too — because Jesus definitely made enemies. The problem is that today’s Christians tend to disagree about who should be the object of our jerkiness.


Jesus had some pretty harsh words for the rich and powerful, and more progressive/liberal Christian groups don’t mince words when it comes to calling out people who take advantage of the weak and poor. 

On the other end of the spectrum, most conservative Christians today will admit that they shouldn’t be hypocrites or arrogant blowhards as individuals, but I doubt they’re willing to rethink the church’s entrenched social message in opposition to issues like abortion or homosexuality. You know what? Pro-choice advocates tend to think churches are jerks. A lot of homosexuals think Christians are jerks, too — maybe not as individuals, but as members of an institution that generally opposes them.


The fact is, there are certain types of secularly defined
jerkiness that most churches are unwilling to repent of. (This is
where all those people who are so quick to talk about “the offense of
the Gospel” will get excited.)

Regardless of where you stand on social issues like corporate greed or abortion or homosexuality, I think a church that promises not to be a jerk is setting itself up for failure. Any time you take a moral position, you’re going to offend someone who takes the opposite position. You can’t please everyone. We’ll all end up being jerks at some point or another.

It’s good to confess it. It’s good to own up to it. It’s good, on an individual basis, to be nice to people. But let’s not pretend we can avoid coming across as a jerk in a pluralistic society. It’s impossible.


What’s your perspective on the ad campaign and billboard? Am I overthinking this? Worse, am I sounding like a grouchy fundamentalist?

Comments read comments(18)
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posted October 19, 2010 at 11:29 am

You brought up a point that I didn’t even think about…the fact that, to some people, Christians will always look like “jerks” simply because they generally stand in opposition to some of the popular beliefs/opinions on hot-button issues (abortion, homosexuality).
I think you’re right that they may be walking a fine line. It’s just like everyone discussed on your post yesterday…churches really shouldn’t compromise what they believe and what they should be teaching just to make sure they aren’t offending anyone. Jesus offended people ALL the time.
However, I tend to want to give them the benefit of the doubt. They will get some interest, surely, due to that billboard, and hopefully that will lead people to their church out of curiosity if nothing else, and maybe they’ll plant some seeds!

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jay sauser

posted October 19, 2010 at 11:32 am

Good thoughts on how the outcasts and pharisees viewed Jesus. Interesting. thanks man

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Charlie's Church of Christ

posted October 19, 2010 at 11:44 am

As an advertising campaign, you’re right, it’s great. But I have to question why a church feels the need to use advertising gimmicks. I understand wanting to reach masses of people, but our message is best experienced via love, not words or sermons.
My question is are they repenting of their own jerkiness as Christ Covenant Church, or simply the church as a whole? Because the language you quoted sounds more like the universal church, and they could claim that universal church has been a jerk (and no one would argue with that), and somehow exclude themselves and say they’ve haven’t been jerks.

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posted October 19, 2010 at 11:50 am

You definitely had some good thoughts especially on the issue that we’re always going to be the bad guy to someone..In general, I’m not extremely fond of churches apologizing for Christianity because so often that brings a giant weight on their shoulders to over-perform in every aspect of society to please everyone. And as you said, if you stand on one position, you’re going to be a jerk to the person holding the other position. I see where they’re coming from though and I think it’s great if it works for them.

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Charlie Chang

posted October 19, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I get what the church is trying to do and I’m all for it. But I think you may be over thinking it man. I think if we first admit that we’ve messed up, that will set up the tone for others to listen to us.
This is kind of like the sign I saw in VA that said, “I hate the church of Colonial Beach, VA.” – Satan

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the Wingnut

posted October 19, 2010 at 12:08 pm

A friend of mine once told me, “If everyone likes you, then you’re not doing something right.”
We cannot expect to stand opposed to the world with the Gospel, and have everyone like us. It simply will not happen.
You made an interesting point, though, about the future expectations that will be made about that church. Even if they try to distance themselves from the “jerkiness” of the Church, there will come a day when their congregation, or parts of it, will be seen as jerks.
Will that day deconstruct their entire present message? Will it nullify their present efforts?

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Devin Carlile

posted October 19, 2010 at 12:37 pm

This church and this campaign aren’t advocating a message no one is opposed to. Their definition of “jerk” is not living up to the message the church is speaking. Pride, hypocrisy, selfishness and a judgmental attitude are all in opposition to the message of Jesus. While many people were opposed to Jesus during his earthly life, and while Jesus had some harsh things to say at times, he was never accused of being a jerk by this church’s definition. The biblical message will always be offensive to some, that doesn’t mean we as Christians should be. Another blog I read concerning this church accused Christians of being jerks because their message was damaging to the lifestyle and message of homosexuals. Conversely, the message of homosexuals is damaging to the lifestyle and message of the Christian. So, who’s the jerk? If Christians truly believe there is a heaven and hell, and that homosexuality is a sin, then the message that homosexuality is normal is damaging to their lifestyle and beliefs. Why is it ok for the homosexual (or any other group) to be offended by the Christian message, but not the other way around? My point is this, any belief system has an opposite. It’s not your beliefs that make you a jerk.
This campaign is not saying that our message has been offensive and that makes us jerks. What’s important with the message of this church is that Christians are considered jerks not for what they believe, but for failing to act according to their beliefs. That’s exactly what caused Jesus to oppose the religious leaders of his day, and it’s what makes Christians jerks today. Jesus never hated sinners, he never yelled at them, never told them they were going to hell and God hated them. Jesus only had harsh words for people who reported to know and represent God but failed to live with His character. I think that is the heart of this church’s message.

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Jason Boyett

posted October 19, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Great points, Devin. Thanks.

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posted October 19, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Emotion goes hand in hand with religion. You wanna make somebody mad…Tell them they go to the wrong church. It’s almost like we have forgotten why we love Jesus, and we would rather fight over who loves him more. I don’t think your off base in your points Jason. Our society is so set on shock value that people almost expect it now, and it is sad to see a church use this marketing ploy. However I have to make my intentions argument, as long as their intentions are meant well than it could be a good thing. If they are using shock value like Fox News and MSNBC than I have a real problem with that. That can be a dangerous game, especially when it comes to someones religion.

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posted October 19, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Sorry–don’t buy this. I think it’s a great message, but it’s a message for the church, not for the unbelieving public. I don’t think the world respects this message. This message isn’t one of hope. It’s just an attention-getting device. It’s intended to woo the world by telling them, we know we’re failures? We are supposed to be the hope of the world, not perfect, but not a bunch of self-centered, failing jerks. That is a message of admonition for the body. Marketing ploy gone bad. This recent trend of churches showing all their faults to the world–would you buy a product from a company that broadcast this message?

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posted October 20, 2010 at 2:12 am

I think it’s a brilliant move on this church’s part. They’re not saying you’ll never disagree with them again. They’re saying they’re going to try, harder, not to be disagreeable. As a non-Christian, I don’t take offense at the fact that Christianity doesn’t validate my own beliefs.
What I take offense at is the vicious and un-Christ-like and genuinely Satanic way many of these people worship themselves and the power over others that their self-righteousness seems to afford them. Most of these folks wouldn’t know Christ if he showed up on their door. They’d have him beaten by security, thrown off the premises, and call him a long-haired liberal as they threw his sandals after him. Advocating one’s beliefs is not the problem most of us have with Christianity these days, it’s HOW they deal with people.
My theology also doesn’t agree with lots of, say, Buddhism or Hinduism or the Bahai faith, but I don’t dread interacting with any of them. I don’t get that tight feeling in my gut and the feeling that I need to shield myself from negative energy the way I do when someone makes a point of telling me they’re “Christian.” There are a lot of good people who are Christians, don’t get me wrong, but I find that the ones who are most in your face about it invariably have a lot of darkness and condescension they want to project into my life in some way.
I find “Christ-like” people in all walks of life, but honestly, I find fewer of them among Christianity than I do in many other faiths, including secularism. That’s not real good for the brand, you can well imagine. This church with the billboard is saying they’re going to try to change that for the better. If that comes from the heart and not just some clever ad manager, bully for them.

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posted October 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm

As far as I’m concerned, talk is cheap!!!!!! Evangelical Christians may sit and listen to how proud, judgemental and hypocrital they are, but tell them how Jesus cared for the poor, that everything He had He shared, that His followers are not promised wealth, and there will be a stampede at the exit door.

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Tim Wirth

posted October 27, 2010 at 10:19 am

Jesus Himself said “and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matt 10:22
This of course does not give us a pass to be mean to people we need to love everyone just like God loves them.
If we truly love people we will share the true gospel of Jesus Christ with a lost and dying world.
But here is the catch if we refer to the world as lost and dying they are going to see us as jerks.
Christians are not perfect but if you are not reflecting the love of Christ are you really even a Christian?
Or are you a CINO (Christian in name only) sorry about the acronym I was not trying to be a jerk.
The religious leaders in Jesus day thought Jesus was such a jerk because of His message and what He said He was killed for it.
I think the billboards were a tremendous waste of money and self- deprecating.
If this church thinks of itself as jerks maybe they should consider getting a new pastor.
In my opinion a church many times is a reflection of their pastor.
If you want to be thought of as a real jerk tell people that Jesus is the ONLY way.In this pluralistic society that doesnt go over well.
Matter of fact even though I say this in love there are people who will think Im a jerk. I would be a jerk if I didnt share the gospel with them. That would show I didnt care if they went to hell or not.
Again we need to remember saying Jesus is the only way these days is considered hate speech no matter how we say it.

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posted October 29, 2010 at 9:59 am

I think we should take the sign at face value and avoid such a place. The world isn’t even listening to Christians anymore, their apologies, their identify crises, their fads, their bumper stickers, their circus churches, their emergent wannabe cool churches, their televangelists, their lies, their adulteries, their child molestations, their court cases, their ad campaigns. In this jaded world, the sign confesses what the world already knows, and I, for one, am not coming back to see what their latest thing is.

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posted November 4, 2010 at 3:21 am

Val- What seems weird is that I believe in who Christ is but don’t know if I am one of his. (I’m embarrased that I have prayed for his mercy but don’t call myself “christian”. To anyone who asks anymore, My answere seems to be “I don’t know”. I don’t go to church anymore because I generally think christians are “Jerks”. Not because they confess a faith and try to live it but because they rarely agree on any doctrine. They sit around telling people how they know they have the “True Gospel” and spend the rest of the time thanking God for that all the mean while teaching and arguing about what the true meaning of a text is.. Well ya know what? I could have anyone of them committing to heretical doctrines and you know what else? Most of them already do. They become so self gratifying by being the stricter Calvinist or being the more loving arminian.Or being a “thank God we’re not Catholics, they’re a cult you know” Baptist. Noone has the truth. I know I might be considered a heretic by heretics but by Christ I doubt if he gave anyone the whole truth therefore I pray for his mercy and ask him to not kill me for not wanting to argue with people about what he meant to say in the Bible. Mabey his greatest mercy will cover my REAL sins of which there are many.

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posted April 14, 2011 at 10:04 am

You hit the nail on the head in your summary
“Any time you take a moral position, you’re going to offend someone.” I think you could go so far as to say “Jesus was a jerk” because He was clear in His position and offended many (still does). An essential point of focus is WHO He offended. The religious leaders of His day were greatly offended while the needy of His day received compassion. If I lived in Beaumont I’d likely go hang out with that bunch of jerks.

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posted January 10, 2012 at 3:20 am

well i am a gay christian, before you judge me, i just want to make it clear i do believe in honoring God with celibacy.

i just want to say that from what i can see, Christians are indeed being a complete jerks to the gay community, and not in a biblical way either.

many christians i have meet have clearly crossed the line from hating the sin to hating the sinners.

furthermore, there are part of christian community who are devoted to slander the gay community, anything from that they should not be parents because they could turn kids gay, to gay is a choice, or gays lives a hedonistic lifestyle etc etc, many of which clearly contradict scientific community’s actual views.

that is why personally, i think it is about time that christian community start to take resp for what they are doing wrong on their part, and acknowlege that gay community anomosity towards christians isnt just because we oppose gay lifestyle and gay marriage ( though that is certianly part of it), but also many other evil behaviours on our part.

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