I’m always torn when confronted by the aggressive stupidity of many internet commenters. On the one hand, when one “feeds the trolls,” they tend to respond with even more aggressive stupidity. On the other hand, the prevalence of certain arguments is evidence of a troubling mindset and paints a misleading picture of public sentiment. To some folks, literally any action by a conservative Christian must be opposed, and every form of sexuality must be displayed. Don’t believe me? Read the utter nonsense on display in the comments on the Tennessean’s story about Books A Million’s sexuality display – nonsense made all the more remarkable by the fact that the Tennessean’s comments aren’t anonymous. (My favorite is from a person who identifies herself as employed by United Methodist Publishing who says, “[W]hy are these people so afraid of sex and educating their children about it?”)
Let’s be clear about what happened here. Nancy took our kids to a much-beloved local book store (something we do frequently), walked with my son to the military history section, and saw a large display that featured uncensored pornographic images. The display was so large and the pictures so graphic that her first thought was that someone had “punked” the store, had played a prank. Nancy did not ask the store to remove its sexuality section. She did not ask the store to stop selling any of the relevant books. She just asked that the pornographic images not be so easily viewable.
To some people, apparently, that’s the same thing as hating sex, repressing your children, and laying the cornerstone of theocracy. Here’s one of my favorite comments:
“Because Gays and Lesbians are disgusting monsters that you have to hide from your children, right? [Note: the most offensive picture was definitely heterosexual] Not people that have their own experience to write about and cater to. Heterosexist swine. And what harm comes from your kid knowing that sex exists at a young age. It is a beautiful thing created by God, and this Victorian attempt to cover it up is exactly what has created our hyper-sexualized culture. We should bask in sex as the natural and essential element of human life and relationship and then it wouldn’t become something teenagers are driven to do at a young age and go through lengths to hide their lives from their parents. It is attitudes like this that emulate the failed Prohibition, you are only fostering a mindset for your children to pursue sexual education without enlightened guidance from parents and other caring adults in clandestine environments like stolen porno rags and internet forums.”
Unbelievable. Isn’t there a middle ground between porn and prude? Are people so blinded by their hatred for Christians and love of sexual indulgence that they must defend even public displays of sex acts? Remember, Nancy was not advocating that Books-A-Million remove a single product from its shelves.
I’m increasingly believing that when it comes to the malicious comments and inane reasoning that dominates much of the internet, (to quote the late Justice Louis Brandeis) “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Sometimes bad ideas have to be addressed, and small-minded hatred must be exposed. Critically, Christians can and should respond to bad speech with better speech. We simply can’t abandon the virtual public square to anyone, much less the most ill-informed, vicious, and vile members of the secular (or even religious) Left.