On Trolling

I’ll confess I like the word less than the action. I find that even worse than either is the misuse of the word. Often enough, internet trolling has been defined to mean “contrary opinions I don’t like.”

That said, people online do behave inappropriately, as they do in real life. An example offline that might be likened to social media annoyances: an ex attends a wedding and waxes poetic on the old relationship with bride and/or groom. Such waxing may, in fact, be totally true. But if there’s a time and place to rehash old hurts, it’s probably not at a wedding. Or a funeral.

My regular readers, friends and foils alike know of my deep reluctance to edit comboxes here. Lots of things are approved here: changing the subject, disagreeing with me to name two. To try to keep November 2’s post clean, I was asked to police it carefully. I took two comments down, interpreting the posts as a dare. My friend Dick posted today (before I took it down):

Thanks for deleting my fundamental Christian biblical comments. I am saddened of the traditional direction you have taken your people over the centuries. God say’s ” My way are not your ways”. You will receive a double wage.

I wouldn’t want to put words in someone’s mouth, but I think there are many approaches a fundamentalist Christian could take here if they objected to the concept of Communion of Saints or prayers for the dead.

First, this is my Catholic website. I embrace a Christian tradition far older than American fundamentalism. The core notion here is that I will present traditional Christian understandings. Certainly many practices of both Catholics and fundamentalist Christians have been abused by people who misunderstood them. That does not discredit them because more often Christian practices and traditions have been of benefit to believers.

Second, a bit of respect is good. If not for me, then certainly for my readers who come here not to get into a discussion with a Bible-believing fundamentalist.

Third, I think a helpful approach might be to ask questions. This might be a good way to go: Why do you hold to a tradition some Christians reject?

Fourth, another way is to state simply in one’s own words what one believes, holds, and does. No Catholic or other Christian is compelled to pray for the dead. Or not for the dead. It is a choice. Some Christians adopt many topics for intercessory prayer. God may or may not act on them as requested. Usually I keep things open. I like to pray for world peace. I don’t care to instruct God on how to get that done. Or how to get people to start working on it. I like to pray for Christian unity. Likewise, I don’t ask that all Protestants, Anglicans, and Orthodox drop everything they’re doing and switch to Roman Catholicism. I figure that adopting Jesus’ prayer of John 17 or some abbreviated form of it is enough. Let God work the details.

As for Dick’s comment cited above, I might just as well say that God’s ways are not fundamentalist, Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Orthodox, Lutheran, or any other human ways. As for God’s mercy, God can grant me whatever wage he sees fit now or in the life to come. My eternal soul does not hang in the balance if I think about my deceased father from time to time and ask the Lord to take care of him. I prayed for him when he was alive, especially when he was sick. When he died of leukemia, that prayer topic didn’t suddenly grow a red circle with a slash. And neither does anybody else’s prayer for loved ones or friends who have passed from mortal life. God is timeless. Timelines are our way. Not God’s.

I don’t see Dick or Max as trolls. They are welcome to come and comment on any thread they see fit. If they insist on changing the topic to something drastically different to lurch into fundamentalism or atheism, I will make a judgment. When I have time and energy, I might pull an interesting comment off the comboxes and onto a separate open thread. Believe me: it’s a lot more than anyone will get on other websites if you disagree with the mainstream.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to On Trolling

  1. Lady Bird says:

    I agree with everything your way. I always feel compelled to comment, but have been trying not to recently. Mostly I comment to affirm what I had read. I don’t like to post comments with articles I disagree with because I can’t imagine that a few lines, an opinion from a stranger, will change anyone’s beliefs.

  2. Lady Bird says:

    I meant to write, “everything you say.” not “way.”

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