This past week a public figure that I follow on social media, Karoline Lewis, was “trolled.” Being trolled on social media is to experience anonymous anger from an individual. Sometimes it is a single random comment and other times it is an extended rant expressing an opinion usually in opposition with another. Most often the comments are hurtful.
I know for myself when I post something, I am expressing my own truth, my own faith. If someone doesn’t agree, that’s fine. That is the nature of discourse, whether it is theological, intellectual, or personal. I have on occasion engaged in conversation, sometimes it gets intense, but most of the time it is respectful (and usually conducted through private messaging). Occasionally it has devolved into inflammatory remarks. When that happens, I think of Charles Blow’s remark: “One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient.”
Social media has two sides: useful dissemination of information and postings that lack civility. Some comments promote racism, homophobia, sexism and even violence. Some tear at the fiber of humanity, forgetting that this is someone’s child, parent, or loved one.
I’m pretty sure that I have said regrettable things. To be sure these are not my finer moments. Most of the time I am able to control my fingers that itch to respond or my mouth that wants to “troll.” All of humanity struggles with the light and the dark side.
Jesus and his disciples faced trolling in ways that we will never experience. They knew rejection, spitefulness, and intellectual attacks. The Gospel often challenged or corrected, but it spoke the truth intended to build up the community of faith. It wasn’t about platitudes or ruffling feathers; the intent was to share the Kingdom of God so that people would follow the teachings of grace and love as demonstrated by God in Christ.
I know I am speaking to the choir and I thank you for listening to my rant. I am lifting up a general concern that we can address with our own ability to empathize and understand. We need each other in ministry and we need to know that we never travel alone.