Three Ways to Handle Religious Bullies

Three Ways to Handle Religious Bullies May 1, 2024

Girl with Tattoo
Girl with Tattoo & How to Handle Religious Bullies Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

A lot of Christians reacted in anger when I posted on my social media accounts that I’m in favor of tattoos and body piercings. Rather than sinful, I see it all as art and artistic expression. For some reason, people think they can get away with verbal bullying and downright rudeness on the interwebs. Sadly, too often, Christians are the worst offenders.

Sometimes, things that might get you punched in the face if you said them to someone within range of a fist get verbally vomited into the comment section of a blog, book review, or social media.

Okay, you don’t like what I wrote. Fine. You disagree. I get it. You don’t like what I believe and probably don’t like me. I can deal with that reality. However, rude, crude, unkind, and mean words are unacceptable, especially when they come from someone who thinks they are godlier than you. (Note: I’m pretty sure godly people shouldn’t act like jerks.)

A Christian woman screamed at me in a comment using all caps and lots of exclamation points: “TATTOOS DEFACE THE TEMPLE OF GOD! YOU ARE A LIBERAL COMPROMISER AND NOT A TRUE MAN OF GOD!!!!!!”


Here’s how I wanted to respond but didn’t:

  • Do you wear makeup?
  • Do you wear jewelry? 
  • Do you have pierced ears?
  • Do you color your hair?
  • Do you overeat and weigh too much?

Clearly, God didn’t make us with pierced ears or short bleach-blond hair. So, perhaps all the things mentioned above “deface the temple.” However, I didn’t challenge the woman because it wouldn’t have made a difference. She acted like a modern-day Pharisee, and the hyper-religious rarely listen well to anyone. 

Woman with bleached blond hair
A woman with bleached blond hair
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

(By the way, if you want to read more about the history of tattoos or get some general theology on the topic, I highly recommend this article by Gregory T. Smith.)

We live in a cancel culture in which we hear verbal ugliness all the time. Have you ever watched any political debates or listened to talk radio? Ask any author, blogger, or columnist—putting your stuff out there for people to read is risky. 

Humans can be ruthless, and civility is a disappearing art. (I’ll write more about civility soon, but here’s a great article about the loss of civility in our society.) We have lost the value of kindness and elevated the practice of cruelty.

My momma taught me this: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything! Wise words.

Here are some prudent words from another wise person: “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” Proverbs 12:18 (NIV). Put another way, words can cut others to shreds, or words can heal. I’m for healing.

So, how should we respond to religious bullies?

1.  Listen first. There might be something you and I can learn. Even mean and non-constructive criticism can be helpful if we listen humbly.

2.  Pray for the bully and respond with kindness. Be grace-filled and ask God to bless them. Jesus said, “Bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:29, NIV). The golden rule is almost cliché, but treating others how you want to be treated is always best.

3. Refuse to overreact. In fact, under-react. “Only a fool is quick to react and get into a quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3, Bubna paraphrase). Adding my mean words to their mean words never ends well. Even if the response is kind and the explanation is rational and reasonable, religious bullies love to fight and tend not to care about what others think. Consequently, I often choose not to respond to their harsh comments.

Hate Message Typewriter
Hate Messages from Religious Bullies
Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

As a columnist, author, and speaker, I try to be as transparent and genuine as possible, and sometimes, that bites me in the buttocks, but it’s okay. Life goes on. And maybe, just maybe, God uses mean people to chisel away at the rough parts of my soul as He shapes me into the image of Jesus.

It saddens me that only “grace-filled folks” will read this article and smile. Why is the Church so full of angry people? Of all humans on this planet living during incredibly dark and challenging times, as Jesus-people, we must show the world a compassionate Father they can run to in hope, not hide from in fear and shame.

God Is Not A Bully

The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15) says that when the father saw his son, he was filled with compassion for him, ran to his son, threw his arms around the boy, and kissed him. This incredible story from Jesus speaks volumes about the heart and attitude of Father God.

  • Let’s be more like the good father who embraced and accepted the underserving son who sinned against him.
  • Let’s be kind to those who don’t deserve our kindness.
  • Let’s be gentle, especially when correcting someone we think has sinned.
  • Let’s watch our words and our tone when expressing our opinions.
  • Let’s not become like the older son in the parable who resented his father’s love.

So, I choose to love the Pharisees, hyper-religious bullies, hardliners, haters, and downright mean people in my life because God does. Unbelievably, He is kind, merciful, and loving far more than we deserve. 

Guy wearing cap with “love your neighbor”
Be kind to the unkind Image by HAMED ASAD from Pixabay

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