Friday, 28 November 2014

Of Tolerance and Trolls

So... since my last post, I've been involved in another online discussion...

and I've come to the conclusion that some people are just not interested in genuine engagement with others. They participate for the sole purpose of being provocative.

Now that can be irritating, but when they are convinced that they speak for 'GOD', and will brook no argument, it can actually be dangerous for anyone who's experienced spiritual abuse.

There was one troll in particular who was behaving like a self-righteous ass - baiting, labelling, and refusing to engage with people who were genuinely trying to share their thoughts and ideas. He presented his opinions as facts, took an "I'm right, and you're a loser" stance, and threw provocative one-liners around like confetti.

I called him on it, told him I didn't feed trolls or take their bait, and left it at that.

Which was fine until one woman joined the thread and started singing his praises, saying that he'd brought her "great comfort and joy" for "standing firm on the Bible..."

She added, "Not once have you insulted any of the people in this comment's (sic) section that I have seen, even while the fake "Christians" will spew all sorts of hateful things at you."

Reading this, I could only assume this woman had not actually read his comments, so I showed her examples of the not just insulting, but also rude and dismissive remarks this chap had made.

Apart from calling people "Pitiful", and accusing others of using "histrionic hyperbole" or having a "myopic perspective" or a "judgmental attitude" or being "toxic" or playing a "blame game" or 'having no integrity' or speaking bullshit, he'd also played the religious shaming card, accusing people of 'walking away from God', 'denying God', living "proudly sinful" and surrendering to their "sinful desires". (There's plenty more, but you probably get the picture).

Imagine my surprise then to hear that she was already aware of them! I was utterly gobsmacked that this abuse was what she was applauding! How on earth did this represent "pursuing GOD'S heart and not your own"!?

But no argument I put forward would be heard. In her mind, this woman had pronounced "Truth". No correspondence would be entered into. End of story.

She also encouraged another commenter to "Continue to speak the Truth harshly, as Jesus and Paul did." (What even!!!)

Again, there was nothing I could say that could even register on, let alone penetrate, her shield of self-righteousness. She was right, I was wrong, she had GOD and "Truth" on her side, and that was all there was to the matter.

After that, it felt like this guy went out of his way to be as noxious as he could be, to as many people as possible.

At first I just ignored it. He neither impressed me nor scared me. And I was also concerned I'd let myself argue too hard against the woman who'd been egging him on.

But then I started to wonder whether some of the people he was bullying might actually be genuinely traumatised by his behaviour.

The article under discussion had been exploring why people are walking away from the institutional church and I thought it was entirely possible that there were people reading and commenting who had, themselves, walked away because of experiencing abuse within the church. And it distressed me to think that someone might have been so relieved to discover that they were not alone that they had plucked up the courage to share, only to be met with what would feel like more abuse.

I tried to put myself in their shoes, and I thought about my own situation - of feeling so alone and abandoned when no-one would stand up for me and confront the bullying. Whether they like it or not, by doing nothing they enabled the abuse.

But then I told myself that had been in 'real life', and this was 'only' online.

And then I remembered being in an online conversation regarding spiritual abuse. One guy was really having a go at me and trying to invalidate me, when another chap stepped in and told him to back off. He didn't know me, but he'd seen the bullying behaviour and he stuck up for me. I was so grateful to receive his support!

And that made me think about how Jesus stood up for broken and vulnerable people against the religious bullies leaders of his day. He had no issue in calling out their self-righteous attitude and abusive behaviour. (Have you read Matthew 23 recently?)

And I came to the conclusion that, on-line or in the 'real' world, it is one thing to recommend we engage in a civilised "agree to disagree" discussion and quite another to sit back and allow a religious thug to bully and wound others.


  1. "Whether they like it or not, by doing nothing they enabled the abuse". Really struggling with this at the moment. So many of my friends either don't believe me or they don't see it and it hurts so much to be around them when they're still part of that culture. Sometimes it feels very lonely doesn't it?

    1. UH I really feel for you and I totally get what you're saying! It can be very hard and very lonely when people you thought were your friends don't want to know or see your reality :'(

      There are no easy answers or quick fixes, but I hope you can find some small comfort in knowing you are not alone. There are others who've been through it too and who know the pain and the struggles. Hang in there!

      Love and blessings to you as you walk this hard path x

  2. to LL and readers,

    I'm taking a survey about spiritual abuse and the representation of survivors in the media. It's a very quick one-question survey, and your participation would be monumentally helpful! Thanks!

    1. Happy to help out - especially if it helps people understand just how foul this behaviour can be!

  3. On-line is real life, beacsue it's real people who tap away at their computer keyboards, reflecting in cyberspace the lives they live.
    Love you xx

    1. Excellent point! Thank you for your wisdom :)