Thursday, September 3, 2009

Trolls and the Holy Ghost Dialectic

One of the things the emergent church gets pinged on a great deal is our relentless focus on conversation. We chat. We gather. We discuss. We convene. The idea behind those conversations is to get to know the other, to open ourselves to who they are. In those exchanges, we find understanding of the other. More importantly, it is in conversations with those who are not exactly "us" that we can find the deepest and most potent movements of the Holy Spirit.

The problem for emergents, as I see it, is that we don't really quite grasp how significant the thing we're doing is. While this approach is a foundational and roots-rock approach to both proclaiming and living into the Reign of God, we keep it in house. We like to talk grace amongst ourselves, but often don't realize that the same grace needs to be intentionally applied to our more challenging relationships. It needs to be expressed outside of comfortable places, in relationships that go beyond cups of coffee or tasty microbrewed beer shared among like-minded people.

We need to be graceful to our trolls.

Trolls, as anyone in the blogosphere knows, are those true-believing souls who take it upon themselves to attack and subvert those who fail to meet the pureblood standards of their particular belief. I've had several over the years. I've had hard-core neoatheist trolls, who have mocked my faith and my stupid fake Easter bunny God. I've had hard-core fundamentalist trolls, who have hurled snippets of scripture and bitter invective in equal parts. I am currently in between trolls, although there are some recent promising prospects. Hi Mark!

It's easy...and, in it's own way, hammer on these folks when they show up. What is not quite so easy is to realize that when Jesus told us to love our enemies, he was talking about trolls. It's a tough thing to do. Our immediate and human desire is to go to war, to open up the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.

This is what the trolls want, although it isn't what they need. They look to the troll-lords on shout radio and shout-tv for inspiration. Trolls want to rant and bellow. Trolls want to find self-affirmation in a seething and closed-circle hatred of those who are different. As such, they are part and parcel of the cult of baseless self-esteem that has come to define our increasingly blighted society. But what they need is the same thing that we all need: the transforming grace of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

So...get to know your troll. Hold on to what is good, and defend what is right, but still be sure to show 'em a little lovingkindness. When they spit on that grace, offer up some more, and then some more after that. The font of our grace is, after all, infinite and without measure.

Evil is, after all, not overcome with more evil.