Troll Theology

If you have never read Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, you should probably take a moment to go order it right now. Sande offers biblical advice on resolving conflict (or better yet, redeeming conflict) through practical theology.

While reading the aforementioned work last night, I came across Sande’s familiar Slippery Slope graphic.

“The Slippery Slope,” Peacemaker Ministries (http://peacemaker.net)

You really do need to pick up the book if you want deeper insight into the graphic. But the graphic represents three general ways we respond to conflict, from escaping to attacking to peacemaking. And insofar as the purpose of this post is concerned, the graphic is fairly self-explanatory. The graphic lists three ways people attempt to escape from conflict, three ways people attempt to attack in conflict, and six ways people can make peace out of conflict.

Upon seeing this graphic again last night I thought, “What if we applied this method of peacemaking to the phenomenon of Internet trolls?”

It’s crazy, I know. Trolls seem some sort of exception. They’re just troublemakers. Busybodies. Childish people with nothing better to do than annoy the devil out of others. In short, they’re sinful human beings. They’re almost like the people we know offline! They’re almost like…us.

That’s right. Excluding bots, so-called “trolls” are, in fact, actual people. People are on the other side of those names on the Internet. They are people created in the image of God, marred by sin, and in need of redemption and restoration in Christ Jesus.

Sounds like I take trolls way too seriously. Or maybe I’m shooting for some sort of “Jesus Juke.” But trolls are people too.

Yes, I am serious. Trolls are people, and inasmuch as we take any other people seriously, we should do the same with trolls. Seems counter-intuitive. People don’t take trolls seriously.

Or do they? See this article. Sounds serious. Sounds like some sort of response must be offered for the problem of trolls. To her credit, the author suggests three available options for dealing with trolls:

1. leave (They Win) 

2. ignore them (they escalate, make your life more miserable, DDoS, ruin your career, etc. i.e. They Win)

3. fight back (If you’ve already hit the Koolaid Point, see option #2. They Win).

Compare these three options to the Slippery Slope above. The first option is an example of “Flight,” the second of “Denial,” and the third of “Assault.” None of these responses are an option for the Christian. That’s okay. None of them are effective anyway.

Speaking of ineffective responses to trolls, the age-old advice regarding trolls is simple enough, “Don’t feed the trolls.” Here’s my advice about that advice, “Don’t listen to people who say ‘Don’t feed the trolls.'” Why? Simple. The advice doesn’t work.

You see, for ten years and more people have been saying “Don’t feed the trolls.” Yet here we are in 2015 and people are sharing this article about, once again, more or less, the problem of Internet trolls. By the way, if you want to know where this article falls on the slope, it’s under “Suicide.”

We have better responses to trolls. Sure, there are times when people are put at risk in various ways, or other people should be removed, or other priorities must rest above the pressure to expend energy on other people, but in general we are far too hasty in dismissing trolls as something less than human. They’re not.

In fact I challenge you to find something that trolls do that is new to human experience. “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Trolls were around long before the Internet. And so my simple suggestion in this post is twofold:

  1. Recognize that trolls are nothing new.
  2. Recognize that trolls are people too.

What’s lacking in the general Christian response to trolls is a good theology of trolls. I don’t pretend to have offered one in this post, but here’s an example of a good start.

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9 thoughts on “Troll Theology

  1. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. – James 3:17. Sound counsel. Thanks, Chris.

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    1. After reading your exchange with defend the sheep I was wondering if you had read the link in this articl to Christianity Today, one of the examples was a Skype conversation, Julie Anne did ask if you would have a telephone exchange which you refused.

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      1. Hi Mary,

        Is this comment directed toward me? If so, you must have me confused with someone else. To my knowledge I have never interacted with Defend the Sheep and was not invited to a telephone conversation. If the comment is directed toward Jules LaPierre you may want to think about why she refused a phone conversation. It seems a bit pushy to come onto someone else’s blog and criticize somebody for not chatting on the phone! 🙂 In any event, thanks for the read and the comment.

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  2. My response was to Jules La Pierre

    Here is the quote from the Christianity Today link you ending your post with

    or Jones, deciding how to respond to Internet postings begins with checking herself, asking if this is somebody with whom she normally would engage. Sometimes the seminarian tries to take the interaction offline, a tactic she learned about a year and a half ago when she was shown the same grace.
    She’d gotten into a back-and-forth online with another podcaster, and he invited her to have the conversation face-to-face (as best as possible) on Skype. It quickly humanized the conversation and changed the entire tone, she said. It also weeds who is trolling from who is “gently, humbling wanting to engage to exchange ideas and learn from another person.”

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  3. This was the tweet

    Julie Anne (@DefendTheSheep)
    2015-10-23, 7:46 AM
    @MrsJLaPierre Would you be ok w/ph call? I really don’t have time for back & forth debate with my homework load.

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