I have it in my relentlessly hopeful head that if we could all have rational conversation with genuine curiosity to understand one another and to understand the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures in their intent and context, the whole world could change. I truly believe that. But too often I truly believe that I might coax that desire for rationality, curiosity, and mutuality out of folks who clearly have no interest in it. And I feed trolls. And I get bit. And I mope. And, Luke knows better than to say it, but he could easily say “I told you so.”
A couple days ago, I re-posted a video celebrating the diversity of Canada’s new government. Jokingly, I suggested that Luke and I should head to Canada around the time our child is due to have our little “anchor baby” in Canada. (Side note: if any Canadian officials are reading this, it was a joke. We’re pastors in a neighborhood we love. Even if your diversity, gun restrictions, and universal health care are terribly enticing, we’re staying put. Besides, you don’t allow Happy Hour in Vancouver? What’s the deal with that? So...point being, you can let us in when we visit my brother in a couple of weeks. We promise we’ll leave well before the kiddo comes.)
Aaaanyway, I posted that video and someone I don’t know, who I only have one “friend” in common with, posted a knee jerk anti-diversity response without even watching the video. The someone was, as you might imagine, white. So I tried to engage. She dug her heels in and posted again. I, and several friends, tried to engage again - citing example after example of how diversity is actually best for us and how being intentional about diversity tends to lead to the best hires anyway because we are biased toward people like ourselves - who are not always the best people for the job. She continued. And finally admitted she had not even watched the video.
I feel as though we’ve all seen this story unfold at least a few times. This is why most people know not to feed the trolls.
Then, still convinced this could end well, I private messaged her trying to take it off the feed and figure out why she was so entrenched in being anti-diversity on a post from a stranger of a video she hadn’t watched. She played the overplayed white privilege card - claiming censorship where there is no censorship: “I guess you don’t appreciate diversity of opinion.” Because leaving her comment up and engaging her time after time is a form of censorship. (Note to fellow privileged people: People disagreeing with you and offering point after point of counter evidence to your opinion is not censorship. It is not a lack of diversity. But, anyway, this person didn’t think diversity was a good thing in the first place.)
Not giving up on this woman’s ability to see the world differently, I suggested she research white privilege and learn to listen before speaking.
So, naturally, the troll was ready for full attack. She looked at my FB page and came back with: “I just saw that you are a pastor. I am shocked! Do you preach sociology instead of the Gospel?”
And this is why you don’t feed the trolls. And this is where Luke’s eyes but not his mouth say “I told you so.”
I asked her one last time to actually get to know me and listen to what I’m saying. I invited her curiosity and maturity one last time. Who knows if she’ll muster it. I invited more conversation off of Facebook if she genuinely wants to engage. I’d be happy to hear from her if that is the case. (And probably happy not to if it is not).
And I said: “Yes. I preach the Gospel. And, yes, I preach what you are calling sociology. I preach the Good News of Jesus Christ that is liberating love and justice for all people. It is a place at the table for those who are marginalized. It is a voice in the conversation for those who have been silenced. It is equality for those who have been harmed by western white supremacy in the name of Jesus which we have too too often taken in vain on this soil. It is equality. It is a concrete and tangible love of all our neighbors.”
If you stop by our church on a Sunday night, you will hear me preach the story of a Jesus who came to give us eternal life that starts today. You will hear me preach the story of a Jesus who dined with outcasts. You will hear me preach the story of a faith whose first missionary was a person who was despised for her nationality, gender, and life choices (that were probably not choices but attempts at survival in a broken system of patriarchy run-wild) by the people in power in Jesus’ community. You will hear me preach a Gospel that includes diversity because that is the only Gospel I know. It is the only Gospel I see in the Christian Scriptures. I wouldn’t know what else to preach.
...And I am so in love with this holistic Gospel of God’s present liberating love and justice for all people - and all of creation - that I imagine I will continue feeding trolls. I’ll keep feeding them because I just can’t imagine how they wouldn’t also fall in love with this Gospel if we could just slow down and listen to each other and to God’s word and works for good in this broken world.
I will feed the trolls. I will get bit. I will mope. And then I’ll feed them again. Because I believe one day, we’ll all sit at Jesus’ table where we’ll all be fed and the world will change.