Sometimes, I ‘m trolled on the Internet. In case you’re not familiar with the term, “Internet troll,” it’s slang for someone who attempts to create discord online with arguments or inflammatory posts for no other purpose than to be disagreeable. While I occasionally am trolled, I have one gentleman who’s been trolling me regularly for over six months. Unlike most, he’s openly admitted that he has an agenda to discredit people like me.
This very dependable, articulate gentleman who trolls me on a particular social media site has stated that his goal is to challenge Christians because of his belief that Christianity is harmful to people. He claims that I’m not really a Christian because I don’t adhere to certain teachings he believes are essential to Christianity. He also insists that Christians can’t be involved in interfaith pursuits. Lastly, he insists that all I’m attempting to do is make money off of people.
When he first began trolling me, I thought he was sincere and wanted to have dialogue. It took me a while, but I realized that this was not the case. Instead, he’s attempting to create discord online. What’s interesting to me about this man is that he’s essentially a fundamentalist. He’s really no different from rigid believers who insist that the belief and experience of others must match their own. If one seriously considers the history of Christianity, it’s very clear that there always been a wide diversity of belief and practice among Christians. Christians have never agreed on key elements of the religion, like baptism or communion, the meaning of salvation, or whether the world is fundamentally good or intrinsically evil. These debates aren’t new. Instead, they cross the span of two millennia. This same kind of diversity of belief and experience is found in every other major religion.
The term “religion” comes from the Latin word religare meaning to bind together. Religion draws people together to share common beliefs and experiences. Religion also binds together within a person a sense of that person’s own beliefs and experiences. Properly, religion isn’t about dogma but about attempting to make coherent sense of experience of life. When religion becomes dogma, then it’s making someone else’s belief and experience one’s own. In other words, dogma isn’t my experience but is someone else’s experience that’s appropriated as true.
I can only assume that the gentleman who routinely trolls me was somehow hurt very deeply by religion or perhaps by a member of the clergy. It’s clear that he’s not able to listen and attend to the experience of others because he’s limited by his own experience and intention to pick arguments to point out what he believes are inconsistencies. Contrary to that, I find that my best opportunities to enrich my life have been to learn from the experience and thoughts of others, including shamans and Native American elders, Hindu yogis, Buddhist roshis, Muslim imans, Jewish rabbis and people with no particular faith or tradition. When we open our hearts to respect and receive the rich experience of others, we have the opportunity to grow in ways we would never expect.
Yes, I am a Christian. I draw a sense of meaning and fulfillment from the teachings of Jesus and do my best to live out those teachings in daily life. But I don’t expect that others should follow that path that’s right for me. Further, I encourage others to follow the path that’s right for them, whether that be through another religion or belief system or no particular belief system. That’s because I contend that people who live with integrity to what is most true within them will lead lives marked by goodness and compassion.
People whose goal is create discord and division, whether in real life or online, have not discovered what it means to live with compassion for themselves or others. Perhaps that’s what makes the term “Internet troll” appropriate.
(Photo credit: betsythedevine via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA)
© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.